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Title: Airship Andy - or The Luck of a Brave Boy
Author: Webster, Frank V.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: THE RACING STAR PASSED TWO OF THE CONTESTANTS (Page 172)]



                              Airship Andy


                        The Luck of a Brave Boy

                                   BY

                            Frank V. Webster

            AUTHOR OF “ONLY A FARM BOY,” “BOB THE CASTAWAY,”
        “COMRADES OF THE SADDLE,” “TOM THE TELEPHONE BOY,” ETC.

                              ILLUSTRATED

                                NEW YORK
                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS



                             BOOKS FOR BOYS

                          By FRANK V. WEBSTER

                       12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.

                     ONLY A FARM BOY
                     TOM, THE TELEPHONE BOY
                     THE BOY FROM THE RANCH
                     THE YOUNG TREASURE HUNTER
                     BOB, THE CASTAWAY
                     THE YOUNG FIREMEN OF LAKEVILLE
                     THE NEWSBOY PARTNERS
                     THE BOY PILOT OF THE LAKES
                     TWO BOY GOLD MINERS
                     JACK, THE RUNAWAY
                     COMRADES OF THE SADDLE
                     THE BOYS OF BELLWOOD SCHOOL
                     THE HIGH SCHOOL RIVALS
                     AIRSHIP ANDY
                     BOB CHESTER’S GRIT
                     BEN HARDY’S FLYING MACHINE
                     DICK, THE BANK BOY
                     DARRY, THE LIFE SAVER

                Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York

                          Copyright, 1911, by
                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

                              AIRSHIP ANDY
                          Printed in U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS

              CHAPTER                                   PAGE
                    I The Young Chauffeur                  1
                   II Breaking Away                       11
                  III Runaway and Rover                   21
                   IV Down the River                      30
                    V Tramping It                         38
                   VI The Sky Rider                       48
                  VII John Parks, Airship King            55
                 VIII The Aero Field                      61
                   IX The Airship Inventor                67
                    X Learning To Fly                     74
                   XI Spying on the Enemy                 82
                  XII Traced Down                         88
                 XIII Jiu-jitsu                           99
                  XIV The Old Leather Pocketbook         108
                   XV Behind the Bars                    115
                  XVI Bail Wanted                        124
                 XVII A True Friend                      132
                XVIII Out on Bail                        138
                  XIX A Disappointment                   145
                   XX A New Captivity                    153
                  XXI A Friend in Need                   161
                 XXII “Go!”                              169
                XXIII The Great Race                     175
                 XXIV A Hopeful Clew                     183
                  XXV Good-by to Airship Andy            195



AIRSHIP ANDY



CHAPTER I—THE YOUNG CHAUFFEUR


“Hand over that money, Andy Nelson.”

“Not on this occasion.”

“It isn’t yours.”

“Who said it was?”

“It belongs to the business. If my father was here he’d make you give it
up mighty quick. I represent him during his absence, don’t I? Come, no
fooling; I’ll take charge of that cash.”

“You won’t, Gus Talbot. The man that lost that money was my customer,
and it goes back to him and no one else.”

Gus Talbot was the son of the owner of Talbot’s Automobile Garage, at
Princeville. He was a genuine chip off the old block, people said,
except that he loafed while his father really worked. In respect to
shrewd little business tricks, however, the son stood on a par with the
father. He had just demonstrated this to Andy Nelson, and was trying his
usual tactics of bluff and bluster. These did not work with Andy,
however, who was the soul of honor, and the insolent scion of the Talbot
family now faced his father’s hired boy highly offended and decidedly
angry.

Andy Nelson was a poor lad. He was worse off than that, in fact, for he
was homeless and friendless. He could not remember his parents. He had a
faint recollection of knocking about the country until he was ten years
of age with a man who called himself his half-brother. Then this same
relative placed him in a cheap boarding school where Andy had to work
for a part of his keep. About a year previous to the opening of our
story, Dexter Nelson appeared at the school and told Andy he would have
to shift entirely for himself.

He found Andy a place with an old farmer on the outskirts of
Princeville. Andy was not cut out for hoeing and plowing. He was willing
and energetic, however, and the old farmer liked him immensely, for Andy
saved his oldest boy from drowning in the creek, and was kind and
lovable to the farmer’s several little children. But one day the old man
told Andy plainly that he could not reconcile his conscience by spoiling
a bright future for him, and explained why.

“If I was running a wagon-shop, lad,” he said enthusiastically, “I’d
make you head foreman. Somehow, you’ve got machinery born in your blood,
I think. The way you’ve pottered over that old rack of mine, shows how
you like to dabble with tools. The way you fixed up that old
washing-machine for marm proves that you know your business. Tell you,
lad, it’s a crying wrong to waste your time on the farm when you’ve got
that busy head of yours running over with cogs, and screws, and wheels
and such.”

All this had led to Andy looking around for other employment. The old
farmer was quite right—Andy’s natural field was mechanics. He felt
pretty happy the day he was accepted as the hired boy in Seth Talbot’s
garage.

That position was not secured without a great deal of fuss and bother on
the part of Talbot, however. The latter was a hard task-master. He
looked his prospective apprentice over as he would a new tool he was
buying. He offered a mere beggarly pittance of wages, barely enough to
keep body and soul together, and “lodgings,” as he called it, on a
broken-down cot in a dark, cramped lumber-room. Then he insisted on Andy
getting somebody to “guarantee” him.

“I’ll have no boy taking advantage of me,” he declared; “learning the
secrets of the trade, and bouncing off and leaving me in the lurch
whenever it suits him. No sir-ree. If you come with me, it’s a contract
for two years’ service, or I don’t want you. When I was a boy they
’prenticed a lad, and you knew where you could put your finger on him.
It ought to be the law now.”

Fortunately, Andy’s half-brother happened to pass through the village
about that time. He “guaranteed” Andy in some manner satisfactory to the
garage proprietor, and Andy went to work at his new employment.

Talbot had formerly been in the hardware business. He seemed to think
that this entitled him to know everything that appertained to iron and
steel. When roller skating became a fad, he had sold out his business,
built a big rink, and in a year was stranded high and dry. The bicycle
fever caught him next, but he went into it just as everybody else was
getting out of it. The result was another failure.

Now he had been in the automobile business for about six months. He had
bought an old ramshackly paint-shop on the main street of the town, and
had fixed it up so that it was quite presentable as a garage.

There were not many resident owners of automobiles in Princeville. Just
at its outskirts, however, along the shore of a pretty lake, were the
homes of some retired city folks. During the vacation months a good many
people having machines summered at the town. Some of them stored their
automobiles at the garage. Talbot claimed to do expert repairing, and as
a good road ran through Princeville he managed to do some business with
transient customers who came along.

Before he had been in the garage twenty-four hours, Andy was amazed and
disgusted at the clumsy clap-trap repairing work that Talbot did. He
half-mended breaks and leaks that would not last till a car reached its
destination. He put in inferior parts, and on one occasion Andy saw his
employer substitute an old tire for one almost new.

Andy tried to remedy all this. He was at home with tools, and inside of
a week he was thoroughly familiar with every part of an automobile. He
induced Talbot to send to the city for many important little adjuncts to
ready repairing, and his employer soon realized that he had a treasure
in his new assistant.

He did not, however, manifest it by any exhibition of liberality. In
fact, as the days wore on Andy’s tasks were piled up mountain high, and
Talbot became a merciless tyrant in his bearing. Once when Andy earned a
double fee by getting out of bed at midnight and hauling into town a car
stuck in a mud-hole, he promised Andy a raise in salary and a new suit
the next week. This promise, however, Talbot at once proceeded to
forget.

It was Andy who was responsible for nearly doubling the income of his
hard task-master. He heard of a big second-hand tourist car in the city,
holding some thirty people, and told Talbot about it. The latter bought
it for a song, and every Saturday, and sometimes several days in the
week, the car earned big money taking visitors sight-seeing around the
lake or conveying villagers to the woods on picnic parties.

Later Andy struck a great bargain in two old cars that were offered for
sale by a resident who was going to Europe. He influenced Talbot to
advertise these for rent by the day or hour, and the garage began to
thrive as a real money-making business.

This especial morning Andy had arisen as usual at five o’clock. He
cooked his own meals on a little oil-stove in the lumber room behind the
garage, and after a cup of coffee and some broiled ham and bread and
butter, went to work cleaning up three machines that rented space.

It was a few minutes before six o’clock, and just after the morning
train from the city had steamed into town and out of it again, when a
well-dressed man, carrying a light overcoat over one arm and a satchel,
rushed through the open door of the garage.

“Hey!” he hailed. “They told me at the depot I could hire an automobile
here.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Andy promptly.

“I want to cut across the country and catch the Macon train on the
Central. There’s just forty-five minutes to do it in.”

“I can do it in twenty,” announced Andy with confidence. “Jump in, sir.”

In less than two minutes they were off, and the young chauffeur proved
his agility and handiness with the machine in so rapid and clever a way,
that his fare nodded and smiled his approval as they skimmed the smooth
country road on a test run.

Andy made good his promise. It was barely half-past six when, with a
honk-honk! to warn a clumsy teamster ahead of him, he ran the machine
along the side of the depot platform at Macon.

“How much?” inquired his passenger, leaping out and reaching into his
vest pocket.

“Our regular rate is two dollars an hour,” explained Andy.

“There’s five—never mind the change,” interrupted the gentleman. “And
here’s a trifle for yourself for being wide-awake while most people are
asleep.”

“Oh, thank you, sir!” exclaimed Andy, overjoyed, but the man disappeared
with a pleasant wave of his hand before the boy could protest against
such unusual generosity.

Andy’s eyes glowed with pleasure and his heart warmed up as he stowed
the handsome five-dollar tip into his little purse containing a few
silver pieces. He had never had so much money all his own at any time in
his life. Once a tourist in settling a day’s jaunt with Talbot in Andy’s
presence had added a two-dollar bill for his chauffeur, but this Talbot
had immediately shoved into his money drawer without even a later
reference to it.

Andy got back to the garage before seven o’clock. He whistled cheerily
as he made a notation on the book of his fare and the collection,
unlocked the desk, put the five dollars in the tin cash box, and
relocked the desk.

Then he busied himself cleaning up the machine that had just made such a
successful spin, for the roads were pretty dusty. As he pulled out the
carpet of the tonneau to shake, something fell to the floor.

It was an old worn flat leather pocketbook. In a flash Andy guessed that
his recent passenger had accidentally dropped it in the car.

He opened it in some excitement. It had a deep flap on one side. From
this protruded the edges of a dozen crisp new banknotes. Andy ran them
over quickly.

“Two hundred dollars!” he exclaimed.

“What’s that?” spoke a sharp, greedy voice at his ear.

It was Gus Talbot, his employer’s son, who had just appeared on the
scene. It was pretty early for him, for Gus paraded as the cashier of
his father’s business and stayed around the garage on an average of
about three hours a day. Most of his time was spent at a village
billiard room in the company of a bosom chum named Dale Billings.

Andy was somewhat taken off his balance by the unexpected appearance of
his employer’s son. It was really the shock of recognizing in the face
of the newcomer the manners and avarice that he shared with his father.
Almost instinctively Andy put the hand holding the pocketbook behind
him. Then he said simply:

“I took a quick fare over to Macon to catch a train. He paid me five
dollars. It’s in the cash drawer.”

“Oh, it is,” drawled out Gus, “and what about all the money I just
caught you counting over?”

“It’s a pocketbook containing two hundred dollars,” replied Andy
clearly, disdaining the slur and insult in the tones of his low-spirited
challenger. “It was dropped by the man I just took over in the machine.
I’ve got to return it to him some way. I might get to the station here
in time to notify him by telegraph before his train leaves Macon that
I’ve found the pocketbook.”

“Hold on,” ordered Gus Talbot. “Hand over that money, Andy Nelson.”

And then followed the conversation that opens this chapter, and Andy had
barely announced that the pocketbook would go back to its owner and to
no one else, when Gus made a jump at him.

“Give up that money, I say!” he yelled, and his big, eager fist clutched
the pocketbook.



CHAPTER II—BREAKING AWAY


“Let go of that pocketbook!” ordered Gus Talbot angrily.

“When I do, tell me,” retorted Andy.

The young chauffeur knew that once the money got into the hands of the
Talbots, father or son, its return to its rightful owner would be
extremely dubious. He had proven himself a match for Gus in more than
one encounter in the past, and that was why Gus hated him. Andy reached
out one hand not at all gently. He gave his opponent a push under the
chin.

Gus Talbot went flat to the floor of the garage with a howl. He had not,
however, let go his grip on the pocketbook. The result was that it had
torn squarely in two. Andy directed a speedy glance at the half in his
own hand. He was reassured, for he had retained the part holding the
banknotes.

“You can keep what you have got,” he advised Gus, with a little
triumphant laugh. “I’ll put this where you won’t get your paws on it.”

With the words Andy ran through the front open doorway of the garage and
down the street in the direction of the business section of the village.

Primarily anxiety to bestow the money in a safe place impelled his
flight. Three other reasons, however, helped to influence him in leaving
the field ingloriously.

In the first place, Gus Talbot was a wicked terror when he got mad. It
was nothing for him to pick up a hatchet, a wrench or an iron bar and
sail into an enemy when his cowardly fists failed him. Andy might have
remained to give the mean craven a further lesson, but chancing to
glance through a side window he saw the chosen crony of Gus approaching.
Dale Billings was the bully of the town. He had left Andy severely alone
after tackling him once. With Gus and Dale both against him, however,
Andy decided that there would be little show of retaining possession of
the money.

The third reason was more potent and animating than any of the others.
Just crossing lots from his home and headed for the garage direct was
its proprietor. If Andy had had any confidence in the sense of justice
and rectitude of Talbot he would have stood his ground. He had none, and
therefore made a rash resolve. It was open defiance of his harsh
employer, and there would be a frightful row later on, but Andy’s mind
was made up. He had reached the next corner and flashed around it and
out of sight before Gus Talbot had gained his feet.

Fifteen minutes later Andy Nelson reappeared at the end of a secluded
street near the edge of the village. He was slightly breathless, and
looked excited, and glanced back of him keenly before he sat down on a
tree stump to rest and think.

“I’ve done my duty,” he murmured; “but it will make things so hot at the
garage I don’t think I’ll go back there.”

Andy indulged in a spell of deep reflection. For some time he had
realized that he was giving his best energies to a man who did not
appreciate them. His work had grown harder and harder. Whenever a
complaint came in about imperfect work, due to the sloppy methods of
Talbot, the garage owner made Andy shoulder all the blame.

“He talks about a two-years’ contract, and tries to scare me about what
the law will do to me if I leave him,” soliloquized Andy. “Has he kept
his part of the bargain? Did he give me the increase in pay and the suit
of clothes he promised? No, he didn’t. I’ve got something in me, but it
will kill it all out to stay in this place. I’ve got five dollars as a
nest-egg, and I’m going to start out on my own hook.”

Andy was fully determined on his course. Perhaps if the incident of the
morning had not come up, he might have delayed his decision. He knew
very well, however, that if he went back to the garage Talbot would
raise a big row, and he would also get hold of the two hundred dollars
if it were possible for him to do so. Some day Andy feared the Talbots
would play one too many of their uncertain tricks and involve him in an
imputation of dishonesty.

“It’s straight ahead, and never turn back,” declared Andy decisively,
and started down the road.

“Hold on there, young man!” challenged a voice that gave Andy a thrill.

Running around the curve in the road Andy had just traversed, red-faced
and flustered, Seth Talbot came bearing down upon him.

Andy might have halted, but the sight of Gus Talbot and Dale Billings
bringing up the rear armed with heavy sticks so entirely suggested an
onslaught of force that he changed his mind. He paid no attention
whatever to the furious shouts and direful threats of Talbot.

Andy put ahead at renewed speed. At a second turn in the highway a man
was raking up hay, and he suspended his work and stared at the fugitive
and his pursuers, as Talbot roared out:

“Stop him, Jones—he’s a runaway and a thief!”

Farmer Jones was not spry enough to shorten the circuit Andy made, but
he thrust out the rake to its full length. Andy’s foot caught in its
tines, dragged, tripped, and the boy went flat to the ground.

“I’ve got him!” hailed Jones, promptly pouncing down upon him.

“Hold him!” panted Talbot, rushing to the spot, and his hard, knotty
fingers got an iron clutch on Andy’s coat collar and jerked him to his
feet.

“What’s the trouble, neighbor?” projected the farmer curiously.

“A thief isn’t the matter!” shot out Andy hotly, recalling the words of
his employer.

“You’ll have to prove that,” blustered Talbot. “If you’re innocent, what
are you running for?”

“I was running away from you,” admitted Andy boldly, “because I want to
be honest and decent.”

“What’s that?” roared the irate Talbot. “Do you hear him, Jones? He
admits he was going to break his contract with me. Well, the law will
look to that, you ungrateful young cub!”

“Law! contract!” cried Andy scornfully, fully roused up and fearless
now. “Have you kept your contract with me? You don’t want me, you want
that two hundred dollars——”

“Shut up! Shut up!” yelled Talbot, and he muzzled Andy with one hand and
dragged him away from the spot. Farmer Jones grinned after them, and he
shrugged his shoulders grimly as he noticed Gus Talbot and Dale Billings
halted down the road, as if averse to coming any nearer.

“’Pears to me you’re having a good deal of trouble with your boys,
Talbot,” chuckled Jones. “That son of yours got a few cracks from my
cane last evening when he was helping himself to some of my honey among
the hives.”

Once out of hearing of the farmer, Gus Talbot edged up to his father.

“Has he got the money?” he inquired eagerly. “Make him tell, father,
search him.”

“I’ll attend to all that,” retorted the elder Talbot gruffly. “Here, you
two fall behind. There’s no need of attracting attention with a regular
procession.”

Talbot did not relax his hold of the prisoner until they had reached the
garage. He roughly threw Andy into the lumber room. Then, panting and
irritated from his unusual exertions, he planted himself in the doorway.
Gus and Dale hovered about, anxious to learn the outcome of the row.

“Now then, Andy Nelson,” commenced the garage owner, “I’ve just a few
questions to ask you, and you’ll answer them quick and right, or it will
be the worse for you.”

“It has certainly never been the best for me around here,” declared Andy
bitterly, “but I’ll tell the truth, as I always do.”

“Did you find a pocketbook with some money in it in one of my cars?”

“I did,” admitted Andy—“two hundred dollars. It belonged to my fare, who
lost it, and it’s going back to him.”

“Hand it over.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?” demanded Talbot stormily.

“Because I haven’t got it.”

“Who has?”

“Mr. Dawson, the banker. I took it to him when I left the garage.”

“Oh, you did?” muttered Seth Talbot, looking baffled and furious.

“Yes, sir. I told him that it was lost money, explained the
circumstances, and that if a certain Mr. Robert Webb called or
telegraphed for it, to let him have it.”

“Is that the name of the man you took over to Macon?”

“That is the name written in red ink on the flap of the pocketbook,” and
Andy drew out the former receptacle of the banknotes. “‘Robert Webb,
Springfield.’ I shall write to him at Springfield and tell him where the
money is.”

Seth Talbot fairly glared at Andy. He got up and wriggled and hemmed and
hawed, and sat down again.

“Young man,” he observed in as steady tone of voice as he could command,
“you’ve shown a sight of presumption in taking it on yourself to lay out
my business system. Here you’ve gone and implied that I was not fit to
be trusted.”

Andy was silent.

“I won’t have it; no, I won’t have it!” shouted the garage-keeper. “It’s
an imputation on my honor! I’ll give you just one chance to redeem
yourself. You go back to the bank and tell Mr. Dawson that we’ve got on
the direct track of the owner of the money, and bring it back here.”

“That would be a lie,” said Andy.

“Don’t we know where he is?”

“In a general way, but so does the bank. It would be a cheat, too, for I
don’t believe you want to get the money back to its rightful owner any
more than you wanted to pay me the tip that passenger left here for me
last week.”

Andy had been too bold. Talbot rose up, towering with rage. He sprang
upon Andy, and threw him upon the cot, holding him there by sheer brute
strength.

“Here, you Gus—Dale!” he shouted. “Off with his hat and shoes. And his
coat—no, let me look that over first. Aha!”

Gus Talbot considered it high sport to assail a defenceless and
outnumbered adversary. He and Dale snatched off cap and shoes without
gentleness or ceremony. Talbot had got hold of Andy’s little purse and
had brought to light the five dollars so carefully folded and stowed
away there.

“Honest? Ha, ha! Decent? Ho, ho!” railed the old wretch. “Where did you
get this five dollars without stealing it?”

“Bet he got ten dollars for the run to Macon and held back half of it,”
chimed in Gus.

“My fare gave it to me for making good time,” explained Andy. “If you
don’t believe it, write to him.”

“Yah!” jibed Talbot; “tell that to the marines!”

He kicked Andy’s shoes and cap under a bench in the outer room and threw
his coat up among a lot of old rubbish on a platform under the roof.

“Get the strongest padlock and hasp in the place,” he ordered his son,
“and secure that door. As to you, young man,” he continued to Andy,
“I’ll give you till night to make up your mind to get back that money.”

“I never will,” declared Andy positively.

“Boy,” said Seth Talbot, fixing his eye on Andy in a way that made his
blood chill, “you’ll do it, as I say, or I’ll thrash you within an inch
of your life.”



CHAPTER III—RUNAWAY AND ROVER


The door of the lumber room was slammed shut on Andy and strongly
locked, and the lad resigned himself to the situation. The Talbots,
father and son, aided by brutal Dale Billings, had handled him pretty
roughly, and he was content to lie on the cot and prepare for what was
coming next.

“They’ve pretty nearly stripped me, and they’ve got all my money,”
reflected Andy. “I wish now I had dropped a postal card to Mr. Robert
Webb at Springfield. I’ll do it, though, the first thing, when I get out
of this fix.”

Andy was bound to get out of it in some way. It would be rashness
complete to try it right on the spur of the moment. However, he had till
night to think things over, and the youth felt pretty positive that long
before then he would hit upon some plan of escape.

In a little while Andy got up and took stock of his surroundings. The
partition that shut in the lumber room was made of common boards. With a
good-sized sledge, Andy could batter it to pieces, but he had no tools,
and glancing through a crack he saw Talbot and his son in the little
front office ready to pounce on him at a minute’s notice.

There was a long narrow box lying up against the inside surface of the
partition boards. Andy had used this to hold his little kit of kitchen
utensils. He removed these now, and lifted the box on end under the only
outside aperture the lumber room presented. This was a little window,
way up near the ceiling. When Andy reached this small, square hole, cut
through a board, he discerned that he could never hope to creep through
it.

Glancing down into the rear yard he made out Dale Billings, seated on a
saw-horse, aimlessly whittling at a stick, and he decided that the ally
of the Talbots was on guard there to watch out for any attempted escape
in that direction.

However, when Andy had done a little more looking around in his
prison-room, he made quite an encouraging discovery. Where the box had
stood originally there was a broad, loose board. Dampness had weakened
one end, and a touch pulled it away from the nails that held it. With
one or two vigorous pulls, Andy saw he might rip the board out of place
its entire length. This, however, would make a great noise, would arouse
his captors, and he would have to run the gantlet the whole reach of the
garage space.

“It’s my only show, though,” decided Andy, “and I’ll keep it in mind for
later on.”

Towards noon Andy made a meal of some scraps of food he found in his
little larder. It was not a very satisfying meal, for his stock of
provisions had run low that morning and he had intended replenishing it
during the day.

About two o’clock in the afternoon Andy fancied he saw his chance for
making a break for liberty. Talbot was in the office. There was only one
automobile in the garage. This was a car that the proprietor’s son had
just backed in. Andy could figure it out that Gus had just returned from
a trip. He leaped out of the machine, simply throwing out the power
clutch, with the engine still in motion, as if intending to at once
start off again.

Gus ran to the office, and through the crack in the partition Andy saw
him scan the open page of the daily order book. Our hero determined on a
bold move. He leaned down in the corner of the lumber room and seized
the end of the loose plank at the bottom of the partition with both
hands, and gave it a pull with all his strength.

R—r—rip—bang!

Andy went backwards with a slam. The board had broken off at the
nail-heads of the first rafter with a deafening crack. He dropped the
fragment and dove through the aperture disclosed to him. He could hear
startled conversation in the office, but it was no time to stop for
obstacles now. Andy came to his feet in the garage room, made a superb
spring, cleared the hood of the automobile, and, after a scramble,
landed in the driver’s seat.

With a swoop of his right hand, Andy grasped the lever, his left
clutching the wheel. The car shot for the door in a flash. Gus Talbot
had run out of the office. He saw the machine coming, and who manned it.
Andy noticed him poising for a spring, snatched up the dust robe in the
seat by his side, gave it a whirl, and forged ahead.

The robe wound around the face and shoulders of Gus, sending him
staggering back, discomfited. Andy circled into the street away from
town, turned down the south turnpike, and breathed the air of freedom
with rapture.

“All I want is a safe start. I can’t afford to leave the record behind
me that I stole a machine,” he reflected. “It’s bad enough as it is now,
with all the lies Talbot will tell. She’s gone stale!”

The automobile wheezed down to an abrupt halt. It was just as it came to
a curve near the Jones farm, and almost at the identical spot where Andy
had been captured that morning. He cast a quick glance behind. No one
was as yet visible in pursuit, and there was no other machine in the
garage. One was handy not a square away from it, however. Andy had
noticed a physician’s car there as he sped along. The Talbots would not
hesitate to impress it into service. At any rate, they would start some
pursuit at once.

Andy guessed that some of Gus Talbot’s careless tactics had put the
magneto or carburetor out of commission. It would take fully five
minutes to adjust things in running order. No one was in view ahead.
There were all kinds of opportunities to hide before an enemy came upon
the scene.

Right at the side of the road was the hayfield of the Jones farm. Andy
leaped a ditch and started to get to the thin line of scrub oak beyond
which lay the creek. He passed three haystacks and they now pretty well
shut him out from the road. As he was passing the fourth one, he
stumbled, hopped about on one foot with a sharp cry of pain, and dropped
down in the stubble.

Andy had tripped over a scythe blade which the stubble had hidden from
his view. His ankle had struck the back of the blade, then his foot had
turned and met the edge of the scythe. A long, jagged gash, which began
to bleed profusely, was the result. Andy struggled to his feet and
leaned up against the side of the haystack in some dismay. He measured
the distance to the brush with his eye.

“I’ve got to make it if I want to be safe,” the boy decided, wincing
with the pain of his injured foot, but resolute to grin and bear it till
he had the leisure to attend to it.

A shout halted Andy. It came from the direction of the barn, and he
fancied it was Farmer Jones giving orders to some of his men. Half
decided to make a run of it anyway, he made a sudden plunge into the
haystack and nestled there.

A clatter had come from the direction of the roadway he had just left.
Glancing in that direction, through a break in the trees, Andy had
caught a flashing view of Gus Talbot, bareheaded and excited, in a light
wagon, and lashing the horse attached to it furiously.

Andy drew farther back in among the hay, nesting himself out a
comfortable burrow. He ventured to part the hay as he heard a great
commotion in the direction of the road. He could trace the arrival of
Gus, his discovery of the stalled automobile, and the flocking of Farmer
Jones and his men to the spot.

Then in a little while the garage-keeper and Dale Billings arrived in
another machine. Some arrangement was made to take the various vehicles
back to the village. Then Seth Talbot, his son, and two of the farm
hands scattered over the field, making for the brush. They went in every
direction. A vigorous hunt was on, and Andy realized that it would be
wise for him to keep close to his present cover for some time to come.

His foot was bleeding badly, and he paid what attention to it he could.
He removed his stockings, bound up the wound with a handkerchief, and
drew both stockings over the injured member.

It was pretty irksome passing the time in his enforced prison, and
finally Andy went to sleep. It was late dusk when he woke up. He parted
the hay, and took as good a look around as he could. No one was in
sight, apparently, but he had no idea of venturing forth for some hours
to come.

“I’m going to leave Princeville,” he ruminated, “but I can’t go around
the world hatless, coatless and barefooted. I don’t dare venture back to
the garage for any of my belongings. That place will probably be watched
all the time for my return. Talbot, too, has probably telephoned his
‘stop thief’ description of me everywhere. It’s the river route or
nothing, if I expect to get safely away from this district. Before I go,
though, I’m going to see Mr. Dawson.”

This was the gentleman to whom Andy had entrusted the two hundred
dollars. Andy had a very favorable opinion of him. The village banker
was a great friend of the boys of the town. He had started them in a
club, had donated a library, and Andy had attended two of his
moving-picture lectures. After the last one, Mr. Dawson had taken
occasion to pass a pleasant word with Andy, commending his attention to
the lecture. When Andy had taken the two hundred dollars to him that
morning, the banker had placed his hand on his shoulder, with the
remark: “You are a good, honest boy, Nelson, and I want to see you
later.”

“I’ll wait until about nine o’clock,” planned Andy, “when most of the
town is asleep, and go to Mr. Dawson’s house. There’s a lecture at the
club to-night, I know, and he won’t get home till after ten. I’ll hide
in the garden and catch him before he goes into the house. I’ll tell him
my story, and ask him to lend me enough to get some shoes and the other
things I need. I know he’ll do it, for he’s an honest, good-hearted
man.”

This prospect made Andy light of heart as time wore on. It must have
been fully half-past eight when he began to stir about, preparatory to
leaving his hiding-place. He moved his injured foot carefully. It was
quite sore and stiff, but he planned how he would line the timber
townwards and stop at a spring and bathe and dress it again. He mapped
out a long and obscure circuit of the village to reach the home of the
banker unobserved.

Andy was just about to emerge from the haystack when the disjointed
murmur of conversation was borne to his ears. He drew back, but peered
through the hay as best he could. It was bright moonlight. Just dodging
from one haystack to another at a little distance, Andy made out Gus
Talbot and Dale Billings.

“Come on,” he heard the latter say—“now’s our chance.”

“They must be still looking for me,” he told himself.

There was no further view nor indication of the proximity of the twain
during the next hour, but caution caused Andy to defer his intended
visit to the banker.

“The coast seems all clear now,” he told himself at last, and Andy crept
out of the haystack, but promptly crept back again.

Of a sudden a great echoing shout disturbed the silence of the night.
Some one in the vicinity of the farmhouse yelled out wildly:

“Fire!”



CHAPTER IV—DOWN THE RIVER


“Fire—fire!”

The cry that had rung out so startlingly was repeated many times. Andy
could trace a growing commotion. His burrow in the haystack faced away
from the buildings of the Jones farm, but in a minute or two a great
glare was visible even through his hay shield.

Andy did not dare to venture out from his hiding-place. From increasing
shouts and an uproar, he could understand that the Jones household, and
then the families of neighbors were thronging to the fire. Some of these
latter, making a short cut from the road, passed directly by the
haystack in which he was hiding.

“It’s the barn,” spoke a voice.

“That’s what it is, and blazing for good,” was responded excitedly, and
the breathless runners hurried on.

Andy made up his mind that he would have to stay where he was for some
time to come, if he expected to avoid capture. Very soon people from the
village came trooping to the scene. He could trace the shouts of the
bucket brigade. He heard one or two automobiles come down the road. The
glare grew brighter and the crowd bigger. Soon, however, the
stubble-field began to get shadowed again, he noticed.

It must have taken the barn an hour to burn up. People began to repass
the haystacks on their return trips. Andy caught many fragments of
conversation. He heard a man remark:

“They managed to save the livestock.”

“Yes,” was responded; “but Jones says a couple of thousand dollars won’t
cover his loss.”

“What caused it, anyhow?”

“It was a mystery to Jones, he says, until Talbot came along. They
seemed to fix up a theory betwixt them.”

“What was that?”

“Why, Jones was sort of hot and bitter about some boys who have bothered
him a lot of late. He walloped one or two of them. Young Gus Talbot was
among them. Jones was hinting around about the fire being set for
revenge, when Talbot spoke up and reminded him that he had headed off
that runaway apprentice of Talbot’s this morning.”

“Oh, the boy they’re looking for—Andy?”

“Yes, Andy Nelson. He’s the one that set the fire, Talbot declares, and
Jones believes it, and they’re going to start a big hunt for him. Talbot
says he’s beat him out of some money, and Jones says he’s just hung
around before leaving for good to get even with him for stopping him
from getting away from Talbot.” And, so speaking, the men passed on.

“Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish!” ruminated Andy. “What next, I
wonder?”

The refugee felt pretty serious as he realized the awkward and even
perilous situation he was in. As he recalled the fact that Gus and Dale
Billings had crossed over the field an hour before the fire broke out,
he was pretty clear in his own mind as to the identity of the firebugs.

“It’s no use of thinking about seeing Mr. Dawson now,” decided Andy.
“It’s too late in the evening, and too many people will be looking for
me. There’s so much piling up against me, that maybe Mr. Dawson wouldn’t
believe a word I say. No, it’s a plain case. They haven’t any use for me
in Princeville, and the sooner I get out of the town and stay out of it,
the better for me.”

Andy’s foot was in no condition for a long tramp. He realized this as he
stretched it out and tested his weight upon it. He was not seriously
crippled, but he was in no shape to run a race or kick a football.

“It’s going to be no easy trick getting safely away from Princeville and
out of the district,” the boy told himself. “I’ll wait until about
midnight, then I’ll make for the river. There’s boats going and coming
as far as the lake, and I may get a lift as far as the city. I can lose
myself there, or branch out for new territory.”

Everything was still, and not a sign of life visible anywhere on the
landscape, when Andy at length ventured to leave his hiding-place. There
was a smell of burned wood in the air, and some smoke showed at the spot
where the barn had stood, but the town and the farmer’s household seemed
to have gone to bed.

No one appeared to see or follow him while crossing the stubble field,
but Andy felt a good deal easier in mind as he gained the cover of the
brush.

The boy was entirely at home here—along the river as well. He had found
little time for recreation while working for Talbot, but whenever a
spare hour had come along he had made for the woods and the creek as a
natural playground. Now he went from thicket to thicket with a sense of
freedom. He knew a score of good hiding-places, if he should be suddenly
surprised.

Andy looked up and down the creek when he reached it. He hoped to locate
some barge ready to go down the river with some piles of tan bark, or a
freight boat returning from the summer camps along the lake. Nothing was
moving on the stream, however, and no water craft in view.

“I’ll get below the bridge. Then I’ll be safe to wait until daylight.
Something is bound to come along by that time,” he reflected.

Andy reached and passed the bridge about a mile below Princeville. There
was no other bridge for ten miles, and if he had to foot it on his
journey to the city, he would be out of the way of traversed roads. He
walked on for about half a mile and was selecting a sheltered spot to
rest in, directly on the stream, when, a few yards distant, he noticed a
light scow near shore.

Andy proceeded towards this. It resembled many craft of its class used
by farmers to carry grain and livestock to market. Andy noticed that it
was unloaded and poles stowed amidships. He stepped aboard. No one was
in charge of it.

“I might find some of the abandoned old skiffs or rafts the boys play
with, if I search pretty hard,” soliloquized Andy, stepping ashore
again.

“Hey!”

Andy was startled. Tracing the source of the short, quick hail, he
discovered a man seated on a boulder near a big hazel bush. Andy was
startled a little, and slowly approached his challenger.

The man who had spoken to him sat like a statue. He was a pale-faced
individual, with very large bright eyes, and his face was covered with a
heavy black beard. A cape that almost covered him hung from his
shoulders, completely hiding his hands. He looked Andy over keenly.

“Did you call me, mister?” inquired Andy.

“Yes, I did,” responded the man. “I was wondering what you were doing,
lurking around here at this unearthly hour of the night.”

Andy mentally decided that it was quite as much a puzzle to him what the
stranger was doing, sitting muffled up at two o’clock in the morning in
this lonely place.

“I was looking for a boat to take me down stream,” explained Andy.

“Are you willing to work for a lift?” inquired the man.

“I should say so,” replied Andy emphatically.

“Do you know how to manage a craft like this one here?”

“Oh, that’s no trick at all,” said Andy. “The river is clear, and
there’s nothing to run into, and all you have to do is to pole along in
midstream.”

“Where do you want to get to?”

“The city.”

“I’m not going that far. I’ll tell you what I’ll do, though,” said the
stranger—“you pole me down to Swan Cove——”

“That’s about fifteen miles.”

“Yes. You take me that far, and I’ll make it worth your while.”

“It’s a bargain, and I’m delighted!” exclaimed Andy with spirit.

“All right,” said the man; “get to work.”

He never got up from his seat while Andy cast free the shore hawser.
When everything was ready he stepped aboard rather clumsily. Andy
thought it very strange that the man never offered to help him the least
bit. His passenger seated himself in the stern of the barge, the cloak
still closely enveloping his form, his hands never coming into sight.

It was welcome work for Andy, propelling the boat. It took his mind off
his troubles, and every push of the pole and the current took him away
from the people who had injured his good reputation and were bent on
robbing him of his liberty.

The grim, silent man at the stern of the craft was a puzzle to Andy. He
never spoke nor stirred. Our hero wondered why he kept so closely
covered up and in what line of transportation he used the barge.

They had proceeded about two miles with smooth sailing when there was a
sudden bump. The boat had struck a snag.

“Gracious!” ejaculated Andy, sent sprawling flat on the deck.

The contact had lifted the stranger from his seat. He was knocked to one
side. Andy, scrambling to his feet, was tremendously startled as his
glance swept his passenger.

The man struggled to his feet with clumsiness. He was hasty, almost
suspicious in his movements. The cloak had flown wide open, and now he
was swaying his arms around in a strange way, trying to cover them up.

“Why!” said the youth to himself, with a sharp gasp, “the man is
handcuffed!”



CHAPTER V—TRAMPING IT


“Gracious!” said Andy, and made a jump clear into the water.

The pole had swung out of his hands when the barge struck the snag. He
got wet through recovering it, but that did not matter much, for he had
little clothing on.

By the time he had got back on deck his mysterious passenger had resumed
his old position. The cloak again completely enveloped the upper portion
of his body and his hands were out of sight. Andy acted as though his
momentary glance had not taken in the sight of the handcuffs.

“Sorry, mister, we struck that snag, but the moon’s going down and a fog
coming up, and I couldn’t help it.”

“Don’t mind that,” was all that the man at the stern vouchsafed in
reply.

The moon had gone down as Andy had said, but enough of its radiance had
fallen on the squirming figure of the stranger a few minutes previous to
show the cold, bright glint of the pair of manacles. Andy was sure that
the man’s wrists were tightly handcuffed. A sort of a chill shudder ran
over him as he thought of it.

“An escaped convict?” Andy asked himself. “Maybe. That’s bad. I don’t
want to be caught in such company, the fix I’m in.”

The thought made the passenger suddenly repellant to Andy. He had an
idea of running close to the shore and making off.

“No, I won’t do it,” he decided, after a moment’s reflection, “I’m only
guessing about all this. He’s not got a bad face. It’s rather a wild and
worried one. I’m a runaway myself, and I’ve got a good reason for being
so. Maybe this man has, too.”

Andy applied himself to his work with renewed vigor. It must have been
about five o’clock in the morning when the stranger directed him to
navigate up a feeder to the stream, which, a few rods beyond, ran into a
swamp pond, which Andy knew to be Swan Cove.

A few pushes of the pole drove the craft up on a muddy slant. It was
getting light in the east now. Andy came up to the man with the
question:

“Is this where you land, mister?”

“Yes,” nodded his passenger. “Come here.”

Andy drew closer to the speaker.

“I told you I’d make it worth your while to pole me down the river,” he
said.

“Oh, that’s all right.”

“I haven’t got any money, but I want to pay you as I promised you. Take
that.”

“What, mister?” and then Andy learned what the man meant. The latter
hunched one shoulder towards the timber on which he sat, and there lay a
small open-faced silver watch.

Andy wondered how he had managed to get it out of his pocket, but he
had, and there it lay.

“It’s worth about eight dollars,” explained the man. “You can probably
get four for it. Anyhow, you can trade it off for some shoes and
clothes, which you seem to need pretty badly.”

“Yes, I do, for a fact,” admitted Andy, with a slight laugh. “But see
here, mister, I don’t want your watch. I couldn’t ask any pay, for I
wanted to come down the creek myself, and I was just waiting to find the
chance to work my way when you came along.”

“You’ll take the watch,” insisted the stranger in a decided tone, “so
say no more about it, and put it in your pocket. There’s only one thing,
youngster—I want to ask a favor of you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Forget you ever saw me.”

“That will be hard to do, but I will try.”

“What’s your name?”

“Andy Nelson.”

“I’ll remember that,” said the man, repeating it over twice to himself.
“You’ll see me again some time, Andy Nelson, even if I have to hunt you
up. You’ve done me a big favor. You said you were headed for the city?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, if you’ll follow back to the river, and cut south a mile, you’ll
come to a road running in that direction.”

“Aren’t you going to use the barge any farther, mister?” inquired Andy.

“No, and perhaps you had better not, either,” answered the man, with a
short nervous laugh.

“Well, this is a queer go!” ruminated Andy, as the man started inland
and was soon lost to view. “I wonder who he is? Probably on his way to
some friends where he can get rid of those handcuffs. Now, what for
myself?”

Andy thought things out in a rational way, and was soon started on the
tramp. His prospective destination was the city. It was a large place,
with many opportunities for work, he concluded. He would be lost from
his pursuers in a big city like that, he theorized.

Andy soon located the road his late passenger had indicated. He looked
at the watch a good many times. It was a plain but substantial
timepiece. It was the first watch Andy had ever owned, and he took great
pleasure in its possession.

“I don’t think I’ll part with it,” he said, as he tramped along. “I feel
certain I can pick up enough odd jobs on my way to the city to earn what
clothing I need and enough to eat.”

It was about seven o’clock when Andy, after a steep hill climb, neared a
fence and lay down to rest in the shade and shelter of a big straw
stack. He was asleep before he knew it.

“What in the world is that!” he shouted, springing up, wide awake, as a
hissing, flapping, cackling hubbub filled the air, mingled with shouts
of impatience, excitement and despair.

“Head ’em off—drive ’em in! Shoo—shoo!” bellowed out somebody in the
direction of the road.

“Geese!” ejaculated Andy—“geese, till you can’t rest or count them!
Where did they ever come from? Hi, get away!”

As Andy stepped out of range of the straw stack, he faced a remarkable
situation. The field he was in covered about two acres. It was enclosed
with a woven-wire fence, and had a gate. Through this, from the road, a
perspiring man was driving geese, aided by a boy armed with a long
switch.

Andy had never seen such a flock of geese before. He estimated them by
the hundreds. Nor had he ever viewed such a battered up, dust-covered,
crippled flock. Many, after getting beyond the gate, squatted down as if
exhausted. Others fell over on their sides, as if they were dying. Many
of them had torn and bleeding feet, and limped and hobbled in evident
distress.

The man and the boy had to head off stupid and wayward groups of the
fowls to get them within the enclosure. Then when they had closed the
gate, they went back down the road. Andy gazed wonderingly after them.
For half a mile down the hill there were specks of fluttering and
lifeless white. He made them out to be fowls fallen by the wayside.

The man and boy began to collect these, two at a time, bringing them to
the enclosure, and dropping them over the fence. It was a tiresome, and
seemed an endless task. Andy climbed the fence and joined them.

“Hello!” hailed the man, looking a little flustered; “do you belong
around here?”

“No; I don’t,” replied Andy.

“I don’t suppose any one will object to my penning in those fowls until
I find some way of getting them in trim to go on.”

“They can’t do much harm,” suggested Andy. “I say, I’ll help you gather
up the stray ones.”

“I wish you would,” responded the man, with a sound half-way between a
sigh and a groan. “I am nigh distracted with the antics of those fowls.
We had eight hundred and fifty when we started. We’ve lost nigh on to a
hundred in two days.”

“What’s the trouble? Do they stray off?” inquired Andy, getting quite
interested.

“No; not many of them. The trouble is traveling. I was foolish to ever
dream I could drive up to nearly one thousand geese across country sixty
miles. The worst thing has been where we have hit the hill roads and the
highways they’re ballasting with crushed stone. The geese get their feet
so cut they can’t walk. If we try the side of the roads, then we run
into ditches, or the fowls get under farm fences, and then it’s trouble
and a chase. I say, lad,” continued the man, with a glance at Andy’s
bandaged foot, “you don’t look any too able to get about yourself.”

“Oh, that isn’t worth thinking of,” declared Andy. “I’ll be glad to
help.”

He quite cheered up the owner of the geese by his willingness and
activity. In half an hour’s time they had all the disabled stray fowls
in the enclosure. Some dead ones were left where they had fallen by the
wayside.

“I reckon the old nag is rested enough to climb up the rest of the hill
now,” spoke the man to his companion, who was his son. “Fetch Dobbin
along, Silas, and we’ll feed the fowls and get a snack ourselves.”

Andy curiously regarded the poor crowbait of a horse soon driven into
view attached to a ramshackly wagon. The horse was put to the grass near
the enclosure, and two bags of grain unearthed from a box under the seat
of the wagon and fed to the penned-in geese.

Next Silas produced a small oil-stove, a coffee-pot and some packages,
and, seated on the grass, Andy partook of a coarse but substantial
breakfast with his new friends.

“There’s a town a little ahead, I understand,” spoke the man.

“Yes,” nodded Andy; “Afton.”

“Then we’ve got twenty miles to go yet,” sighed the man. “I don’t know
how we’ll ever make it.”

Andy gathered from what the man said that he and his family had gone
into the speculation of raising geese that season. The nearest railroad
to his farm was twenty miles distant. His market was Wade, sixty miles
away. He had decided to drive the geese to destination. Two-thirds of
the journey accomplished, a long list of disasters spread out behind,
and a dubious prospect ahead.

“It would cost me fifty dollars to wagon what’s left to the nearest
railroad station, and as much more for freight,” said the man gloomily.

Andy looked speculative. In his mechanical work his inventive turn of
mind always caused him to put on his thinking-cap when he faced an
obstacle.

“I’ve got an idea,” declared Andy brightly. “Say, mister, suppose I
figure out a way to get your geese the rest of the way to market quite
safely and comfortably, and help drive them the balance of the distance,
what will you do for me?”

“Eh?” ejaculated the man eagerly. “Why, I’d—I’d do almost anything you
ask, youngster.”

“Is it worth a pair of shoes, and a new cap and coat?” asked Andy.

“Yes; a whole suit,” said the man emphatically, “and two good dollars a
day on top of it.”

“It’s a bargain!” declared Andy spiritedly. “I think I have guessed a
way to get you out of your difficulties.”

“How?”

“I’ll show you when you are ready to start.”

Andy set to work with vigor. He went to the back of the wagon and fitted
two boards into a kind of a runway. Then he poured corn into the trough,
and hitched up the old horse.

“Now, drive the horse, and I’ll attend to the corn,” he said. “I won’t
give them as much as you think,” he added, fearing the farmer would
object to the use of so much of his feed.

It was not long before they were on the way. As the corn dropped along
the road, the geese ran to pick the kernels up. Andy scattered some by
hand. Soon he had the whole line of geese following the wagon.

“Now drive in the best spots,” he said.

“I’ll take to the fields,” answered Mr. Pierce.

He was as good as his word, and traveling became easy for the geese, so
that they made rapid progress. They kept on until nightfall, passing
through Afton, where Andy bought a postal card and mailed it to Mr.
Webb, stating his money had been left with Mr. Dawson. By eight o’clock
the next morning they reached Wade, and there, at a place called the
Collins’ farm, Andy was paid off and given the clothing and shoes
promised. He changed his suit in a shed on the farm, and then the youth
bid his new friends good-by and went on his way.



CHAPTER VI—THE SKY RIDER


“Hold on, there!”

“Don’t stop me—out of the way!”

“Why, whatever is the matter with you?”

“The comet has fallen——”

“What?”

“On our barn.”

“See here——”

“Run for your life. Let me go, let me go, let me—go!”

The speaker, giving the astonished Andy Nelson a shove, had darted past
him down the hill with a wild shriek, eyes bulging and hair flying in
the breeze.

It was the afternoon of the day Andy had said good-by to Mr. Pierce and
his friends. He was making across country on foot to strike a little
railroad town, having now money enough to afford a ride to Springfield.

Ascending a hilly rise, topped with a great grove of nut trees, Andy got
a glimpse of a farmhouse. He was anticipating a fine cool draught of
well water, when a terrific din sounded out beyond the grove. There were
the violent snortings of cattle, the sound of smashing boards, a mixed
cackle of all kinds of fowls, and thrilling human yells.

Suddenly rounding the road there dashed straight into Andy’s arms a
terror-faced, tow-headed youth, the one who had now put down the hill as
if horned demons were after him.

Andy divined that the center of commotion and its cause must focus at
the farmhouse. He ran ahead to come in view of the structure.

“I declare!” gasped Andy.

Wherever there was a cow, a horse, or a chicken, the creature was in
action. They seemed putting for shelter in a mad flight. Rushing along
the path leading to the farmhouse, a gaunt, rawboned farmer was
sprinting as for a prize. He cast fearsome glances over his shoulder,
and bawled out something to his wife, standing spellbound in the open
doorway, bounded past her, sweeping her off her feet, and slammed the
door shut with a yell.

And then Andy’s wondering eyes became fixed on an object that quite awed
and startled him for the moment. Resting over the roof of the great barn
at the rear of the house was a fantastic creation of sea-gull aspect,
flapping great wings of snowy whiteness. Spick and span, with graceful
outlines, it suggested some great mechanical bird.

“Why,” breathed Andy, lost in wondering yet enchanting amazement, “it’s
an airship!”

Andy had never seen a perfect aeroplane before. Small models had been
exhibited at the county fair near Princeville, however, and he had
studied all kinds of pictures of these remarkable sky-riders. The one on
the barn fascinated him. It balanced and fluttered—a dainty creation—so
frail and delicately adjusted that his mechanical admiration was aroused
to a degree that was almost thrilling.

Blind to jeopardy, it seemed, a man was seated about the middle of the
tilting air craft. The barn roof was about twenty-five feet high, but
Andy could plainly make out the venturesome pilot, and his mechanical
eye ran over the strange machine with interest and delight.

A hand lever seemed to propel the flyer, and this the man aloft grasped
while his eyes roved over the scene below.

How the airship had got on the roof of the barn, Andy could only
surmise. Either it had made a whimsical dive, or the motive power had
failed. The trouble now was, Andy plainly saw, that one set of wings had
caught across a tin ornament at the front gable of the barn. This
represented a rooster, and had been bent in two by the tugging airship.

“Hey, you!” sang out the man in charge of the airship. “Can you get up
here any way?”

“There’s a cleat ladder at the side.”

“All right, come up and bring a rope with you.”

Andy was only too glad to be of service in a new field that fascinated
him. The doors of the barn were open. He ran in and looked about busily.
At last he discovered a long rope hanging over a harness hook. He took
possession of it, hurried again to the outside, and nimbly ascended the
cleats.

“Look sharp, now, and follow closely,” spoke the aeronaut. “Creep along
the edge, there, and loop the rope under the end of those side wings.”

“I can do that,” declared Andy. He saw what the man wanted, and it was
not much of a task to balance on the spout running along the edge of the
shingles and then climb to the ridge-pole. Andy looped the end of the
rope over an extending bar running out from the remote end of the last
paddle.

“Now, then,” called out the aeronaut in a highly-satisfied tone, “if you
can get to the seat just behind me, fetching the rope with you, we’ll
soon be out of this tangle.”

“All right,” said Andy.

“And I’ll give you the ride of your life.”

“Will you, mister?” cried Andy, with bated breath and sparkling eyes.

The boy began creeping along the slant of the barn roof. It was slow
progress, for he saw that he must keep the rope from getting tangled.
Another hindrance to rapid progress was the fact that he had to be
careful not to graze or disturb the delicate wings of the machine.

About half the directed progress covered, Andy paused and looked down.
The door of the farmhouse was in his range of vision, and the farmer had
just opened it cautiously.

He stuck out his head, and bobbed it in again. The next minute he
ventured out a little farther. Now he came out on the stoop of the
house.

“Hey, you!” he yelled, waving his hands up at the aeronaut.

“Well, neighbor?” interrogated the latter.

“What kind of a new-fangled thing is that you’ve stuck on my barn?”

“It’s an airship.”

“Like we read about in the papers?”

“Yes.”

“Sho! and I thought——Who’s afraid?” and he darted back again into the
house. Immediately he reappeared. He carried an old-fashioned
fowling-piece, and he ran out directly in front of the barn.

[Illustration: “IT’S AN AIRSHIP!”]

Andy read his purpose. He readily guessed that the farmer was one of
those miserly individuals who make the most out of a mishap—the kind who
think it smart to put a dead calf in the road and make an automobilist
think he had killed it. At all events, the farmer looked bold enough
now, as he posed in the middle of the road, with the ominous
announcement:

“I’ve got a word for you up there.”

“What is it?” inquired the aeronaut.

“Who’s going to settle for this damage?”

“What damage?”

“What damage!” howled the farmer, feigning great rage and indignation;
“hosses jumped the fence and smashed down the gate; chickens so scared
they won’t lay for a month; wife in a spasm, and that there ornament up
there—why, I brought that clear from the city.”

“All right, neighbor; what’s your bill?”

“Two hundred dollars.”

The aeronaut laughed.

“You’re not modest or anything!” he observed. “See here; I’ll toss you a
five-dollar bill, and that covers ten times the entire trouble I’ve made
you.”

The farmer lifted his gun. He squinted across the long, awkward barrel,
and he pointed it straight up at the sky-rider and his craft.

“Mister,” he said fiercely, “my bill is two hundred dollars, just as I
said. You pay it, right here, right now, or I’ll blow that giddy-fangled
contraption of yours into a thousand pieces!”



CHAPTER VII—JOHN PARKS, AIRSHIP KING


“Keep right on,” ordered the aeronaut to Andy in a low tone.

Andy squeezed under a bulge of muslin and wood and reached what looked
like a low, flat-topped stool.

“Do you hear me?” yelled the farmer, brandishing his weapon and trying
to look very fierce and dangerous.

The aeronaut, Andy noticed, was reaching in his pocket. He drew out two
small bills and some silver. He made a wad of this. Poising it, he gave
it a fling.

“There’s five dollars,” he spoke to the farmer.

The wad hit the farmer on the shoulder, opened, and the silver scattered
at his feet. He hopped aside.

“I won’t take it; I’ll have my price, or I’ll have the law on you, and
I’ll take the law in my own hands!” he shouted.

Snap!—the fowling-piece made a sound, and quick-witted Andy noticed that
it was not a click.

“See here,” he whispered quickly to the aeronaut; “that man just snapped
the trigger to scare us, and I don’t believe the old blunderbuss is
loaded.”

“All ready,” spoke the aeronaut to Andy, as the latter reached the seat.

“Yes, sir,” reported Andy.

“When I back, give the rope a pull and hold taut till we clear the
barn.”

“I’ll do it,” said Andy.

“Go!”

There was a whir, a delicious tremulous lifting movement that now made
Andy thrill all over, and the biplane backed as the aeronaut pulled a
lever.

Andy gave the rope a pull and lifted the entangled wing entirely clear
of the weather-vane.

“Now, hold tight and enjoy yourself,” spoke the aeronaut, reversing the
machine.

“Oh, my!” breathed Andy rapturously the next moment, and he forgot all
about the farmer and nearly everything else mundane in the delight and
novelty of a brand-new experience.

Andy had once shot the chutes, and had dreamed about it for a month
afterwards. He recalled his first spin in an automobile with a thrill
even now. That was nothing to the present sensation. He could not
analyze it. He simply sat spellbound. One moment his breath seemed taken
away; the next he seemed drawing in an atmosphere that set his nerves
tingling and seemed to intoxicate mind and body.

The aeronaut sat grim and watchful in the pilot seat of the glider,
never speaking a word. He had skimmed the landscape for quite a reach.
Then, where the ground began to slant, he said quickly:

“Notice my left foot?”

“I do,” said Andy.

“Put yours on the stabilizing shaft when I take mine off.”

“Stabilizing shaft,” repeated Andy, memorizing, “and the name of the
airship painted on that big paddle is the _Eagle_. Oh, hurrah for the
_Eagle_!”

“When I whistle once, press down with your foot. Twice, you take your
foot off. When I whistle twice, pull over the handle right at your side
on the center-drop.”

“‘Center-drop’?” said Andy. “I’m getting it fast.”

Z—zip! Andy fancied that something was wrong, for the machine contorted
like a horse raising on his rear feet. Toot! Andy did not lose his
nerve. Toot—toot! he grasped the handle at his side and pulled it back.

“Good for you!” commended the aeronaut heartily. “Now, then, for a
spin.”

Andy simply looked and felt for the next ten minutes. The pretty, dainty
machine made him think of a skylark, an arrow, a rocket. He had a
bouyant sensation like a person taking laughing gas.

The lifting planes moved readily under the manipulation of an expert
hand. There was one level flight where the airship exceeded any railroad
speed Andy had ever noted. Farms, villages, streams, hills, faded behind
them in an endless panorama.

Toot!—Andy followed instructions. They slowed up over a town that seemed
to be some railroad center. Beyond it the machine skimmed a broad
prairie and then gracefully settled down in the center of a fenced-in
space.

Its wheels struck the ground. They rolled along for about fifty yards,
and halted by the side of a big tent with an open flap at one side.

“This is the stable,” said the aeronaut, showing Andy how to get from
his seat on the delicate and complicated apparatus of the flyer.
“Dizzy-headed?”

“Why, no,” replied Andy.

“Wasn’t frightened a bit?”

“Not with you at the helm,” declared Andy. “Mister, if I could do that,
I’d live up in the air all the time.”

“You only think so,” said the aeronaut, the smile of experience upon his
practical but good-humored face. “When you’ve been at it as long as I
have, you’ll feel different. What’s your name?”

“Andy Nelson.”

“Out of a job?”

“Yes, sir.”

The aeronaut looked Andy over critically,

“That little frame building at the end of the tent is where we keep
house,” he explained. “The big rambling barracks, once a coal-shed, is
my shop. I’m John Parks. Ever hear of me?”

“No, sir,” said Andy.

“I’m known all over the country as the Airship King.”

“I can believe that,” said Andy, “but, you see, I have never traveled
far.”

“I’ve made it a business giving exhibitions at fairs and aero meets with
this glider and with a dirigible balloon. Just now I’m drilling for a
prize race—five thousand dollars.”

“That’s some money,” observed Andy, “and I guess you’ll win it.”

“I see you like me, and I like you,” said John Parks. “Suppose you help
me win that prize? I need good loyal help around me, and the way you
obey orders pleases me. I’ll make you an offer—your keep and ten
dollars.”

“And I’ll be near the airship?” asked Andy eagerly. “And learn to run
it?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, my!” cried the boy, almost lifted off his feet. “Mr. Parks, I can’t
realize such good luck.”

“It’s yours for the choosing,” said the aeronaut.

“Ten dollars a month and my board for helping run an airship!” said Andy
breathlessly. “Oh, of course I’ll take it—gladly.”

“No,” corrected John Parks, “ten dollars a week.”



CHAPTER VIII—THE AERO FIELD


“That’s settled,” said the Airship King. “Come, Andy, and I’ll introduce
you to our living quarters.”

Andy felt as if he was treading on air. He was too overcome to speak
intelligently. Clear of the spiteful Talbot brood, the proud possessor
of a new suit, a watch, five dollars, and the prospect of a princely
salary, he felt that life had indeed begun all over for him in golden
numbers. He caught at the sleeve of his generous employer.

“Mr. Parks,” he said with emotion, “it’s like a dream.”

“That’s all right, Andy,” laughed the aeronaut. “I’m pretty liberal,
they say—that is, when I’ve got the money. I’ve seen my hard times,
though. All I ask is to have a man stick to me through thick and thin
and I’ll bring him out all right.”

“I’ll stick to you as long as you’ll let me,” declared Andy.

“Yes, you’re true blue, Andy, I honestly believe. I’ve staked a good
deal on the aero meet next month. I’ve just got to get that
five-thousand-dollar prize to make good, for I’ve invested a good deal
here.”

“I hope I can help you do it,” said Andy fervently.

“The _Eagle_ is only a trial craft. Over in the workshop yonder, I’ve
got a genius of a fellow, named Morse, working for me, who is turning
out the latest thing in airships. Here’s our living quarters.”

Mr. Parks led Andy into the shed-like structure that formed the back of
the tent which sheltered the aeroplane and also a dirigible balloon.
They passed through several partitioned-off spaces holding cots. Then
there was a comfortable sitting room. Next to it was a kitchen.

This room was sizzling hot, for it held a big cooking-range, before
which an aproned cook stood with an immense basting spoon in his hand.
He was the blackest, fattest cook Andy had ever seen. His eyes were big
with jolly fun, and his teeth gleamed white and full as he grinned and
nodded.

“I’ve brought you a new boarder, Scipio,” said Mr. Parks. “His name is
Andy Nelson. You’ll have to set another place.”

Then he stepped through a doorway outside, and Scipio took a critical
look at Andy.

“’Nother plate, eh?” he chuckled. “Dat’s motion easy, but what about de
contents of dat plate? Fohteen biscuit do de roun’s now. Yo’ look like a
likely healthy boy. I reckon I have to double up on de rations.”

It was a royally good meal that was spread out on the table in the
sitting room about four o’clock in the afternoon.

“Where’s Mr. Morse, Scipio?” inquired Mr. Parks, as the cook brought in
a smoking roast.

“Mistah Morse have to be excused dis reflection, sah, I believe,”
responded Scipio. “I ask him ’bout noon what he like foh dinnah. He dat
 sorbed in his work he muttah something  bout fractions,  quations and
dirigible expulsions; I hab none ob dose to cook. Jus’ now I go to call
him to dinnah, an’ I find him deeper than ever poring over dose wheels
an’ jimdracks ob machinery, and when I say de meal was ready, he observe
dat de quintessimal prefix ob de cylinder was X. O. plus de jibboom ob
de hobolinks. It sounded like dat, anyhow. Berry profound man, dat, sah.
I take him in his meal later, specially, sah.”

From this and other references to the man in the shop, Andy decided that
Mr. Morse must be quite a proficient mechanician. He longed to get a
peep into his workshop. After dinner, however, Mr. Parks said:

“Would you like to stroll over to the big aero practice field, Andy?”

“I should, indeed,” responded Andy.

He found the aviation field to be a more or less shrouded locality. It
was reached only by crossing myriad railroad tracks, dodging oft-shunted
freight-cars, scaling embankments and crossing ditches. The field was
dotted with shelter tents for the various air machines, trial chutes and
perfecting shops.

There were any number of monoplanes, biplanes and dirigible balloons. On
the different tents was painted the name of the machine housed therein.
There was the _Montgo_, _Glider_, the _Flying Dutchman_, the _Lady
Killer_, and numerous other novelties with fanciful names.

“Every professional seems to be getting up the oddest freak he can think
of,” explained Parks. “Do you see that new-fangled affair with the round
discs? That is called the helicopotol. That two-winged,
one-hundred-bladed freak just beyond is the gyropter. Watch that fellow
just going up with the tandem rig. That’s a new thing, too. It’s of the
collapsible type, made for quick transportation, but not worth a cent as
a racer.”

Andy was in a realm of rare delight. He passed the happiest and most
interesting hour of his life looking over and studying all these
wonderful aerial marvels about him.

When they got back to camp, the aeronaut showed Andy where he would
sleep, and told him something about the routine.

“I am making test runs with the _Eagle_,” he explained, “and will want
you to sail with me for a day or two. Then you may try a grasshopper run
or two yourself.”

“I shall like it immensely,” declared Andy with enthusiasm.

When Mr. Parks had left him, Andy wandered outside. The sound of a
twanging banjo led him to the front of the kitchen quarters.

Seated on a box, his eyes closed, his face wearing an expression of
supreme felicity, was Scipio. Strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” floated
on the air. The musician, opening his eyes, happened to spy Andy.

“Tell you, chile,” declared the portly old cook, with a rare sigh of
longing, “des yar Scip could play dat tune all night long.”

“Keep right at it, Scipio,” smiled Andy. “You go on enjoying your music,
while I do up any little chores you have to attend to.”

“If it wouldn’t be a deposition on yo’,” remarked Scipio thoughtfully,
“dar’s de suppah dishes I’d like brung back from Mistah Morse’s
quarters.”

“Can I find them?” inquired Andy.

“Yo’ jess follow yo’ nose down through the big shed,” directed Scipio.
“Mistah Morse nevah notice yo’. He’s dat substracted he work all night.”

Andy proceeded on his mission. Passing through one shed, he saw a light
at the end of one adjoining. In the second shed he came to a halt with
sparkling eyes and bated breath.

Across a light platform lay the skeleton of an airship. Its airy
elegance and fine mechanism appealed to Andy intensely. He went clear
around it, wishing he had the inventive faculty to construct some like
masterpiece in its line.

Just beyond the machine was a small apartment where a light was burning.
Near its doorway was a table upon which Andy observed a tray of dishes
and the remnants of a meal.

He moved forward carefully to remove them, for seated at a work-bench
and deeply engrossed in some work at a small lathe, was a man wearing
great goggles on his eyes.

“It must be Mr. Morse, the airship inventor,” thought Andy.

Just then the inventor removed his goggles, rubbed his eyes and turned
his face towards Andy.

With a crash the boy dropped a plate, and with a profound start he drew
back, staring blankly at the man at the bench.

“Oh, my!” said Andy breathlessly.



CHAPTER IX—THE AIRSHIP INVENTOR


Morse, the inventor, made a grab for his eye-goggles. He had become a
shade paler. He did not take up the goggles, however. Instead, he turned
his back on Andy.

Our hero had a right to be startled. He stood staring and spellbound,
for he had recognized the inventor in an instant. He was the handcuffed
man he had poled down the river from Princeville the night of the flight
from the Talbots, and who had given him the very watch he now carried in
his pocket with such pride and satisfaction.

The man had shaved off his full beard since Andy had first met him. This
made him look different. It was the large, restless eyes, however, that
had betrayed his identity. Andy would know them anywhere. He at once
realized that the inventor had sought to disguise himself. Probably,
Andy reasoned, he had caught him off his guard with the goggles off his
eyes.

“What did you say ‘oh, my!’ for?” suddenly demanded the inventor.

“I—I thought I recognized you—I thought I knew you,” said Andy.

“Do you think so now?” inquired the inventor, turning sharply face
about.

“I certainly thought I knew you.”

“And suppose you was right?”

“If you were really the person I supposed,” replied Andy, “I would have
done just exactly what I promised to do when I last saw that person.”

“And what was that?”

“To forget it.”

“You’d keep your word, eh?”

“I generally try to.”

The man’s eyes seemed riveted on Andy in a peculiar way that made the
boy squirm. There was something uncanny about it all. Andy experienced a
decidedly disagreeable creeping sensation. The inventor was silent for a
moment or two. Then he asked:

“Who sent you here?”

“I wasn’t sent by any one. I just came.”

“How?”

“With Mr. Parks—in his airship.”

“Are you going to stay here?”

“He has hired me at ten dollars a week and board,” proudly announced
Andy.

“He’s a good man,” said Morse. “I don’t think he’d pick you out if you
were a bad boy. What time is it?”

This question was so significant that it flustered Andy. He drew out his
watch in a blundering sort of a way, fancying that he detected the faint
shadow of a smile on the face of his interlocutor.

“It’s half-past seven,” he reported.

“Watch keep good time?”

“Yes, sir. The man who gave it to me was the man whom I took you for.”

“Good timepiece.”

“Splendid.”

“U-m. What’s your name?”

“Andy Nelson.”

“I’m going to trust you, Andy Nelson; I don’t think I will have any
reason to regret it.”

“I will try to deserve your confidence, Mr. Morse.”

“Oh, you know my name?”

“Yes, sir. I heard Mr. Parks speak of you.”

“I see—of course. I must be cautious after this, though. I had an idea
that shaving off my beard would change my appearance, but as you
recognized me, I must not be seen by outsiders without my goggles. Andy,
I do not wish Mr. Parks to know anything about that handcuff affair of
mine.”

“All right, sir.”

“I suppose it struck you suspiciously.”

“It did at first,” confessed Andy. “When I came to think it over,
though, I remembered that I was in trouble and acting suspiciously
myself. I knew that I was right in my motives, and I hoped you were.”

“I’ll tell you something, Andy,” said the inventor. “It won’t be much
for the present, but later I may tell you a good deal more. A bad crowd
have a hold on me, a certain power that has enabled them to scare me and
rob me at times. I am an inventor. They knew that I was getting up a new
airship. They captured me and locked me up. They demanded a price for my
liberty—that I would disclose my plan to them. I consented. They even
forced me to make a working model. The night before the day I intended
to complete it I made my escape, but handcuffed. You came along and
helped me on the way to freedom. After I left the barge on the creek I
got to the home of a friend, disguised myself, and came here and hired
out with Mr. Parks.”

“But your invention the rascals got away from you?”

“Let them keep it,” responded the inventor, “so long as they do not
trouble me again. There was a defect in the model they stole from me.
Unless they are smart enough to remedy it, they may find out they
haven’t made so big a haul as they anticipate. Look here, Andy.”

Mr. Morse beckoned our hero over to the work-bench and showed him a
drawing.

“The work you see in the big room,” he said, “is the skeleton of this
machine. I am basing great hopes on it. I want to make a record in
aviation, for I believe it will be the most promising field for
inventors for many years to come. If you are going to work with us, you
should know what is going on. This is my new model.”

As Mr. Morse spoke, he became intent and eloquent. He lost himself in
his enthusiasm as an inventor. Andy was a ready listener, and it was
delightful to him to explore this marvel of machines.

“What I hope to accomplish,” explained Mr. Morse, “is to construct a
combined steerer and balancer on one lever. I aim to make this lever not
only tilt the flyer to which it is attached on a transverse axis, but
also on a longitudinal axis. It is called a double-action horizontal
rudder, and if I succeed will give instantaneous control of a
flying-machine under all conditions, be it a high wind or the failing of
motive power. I combine with it a self-righting automatic balance. It is
a brand-new idea. I thought those villains I have told you about had
stolen my greatest idea, but this beats it two to one.”

“Will they try to use the invention they stole from you?” inquired Andy.

“Of course they will—to their cost—if they are too rash,” declared the
inventor seriously. “That was a rudder idea, too.”

“Tell me about it, Mr. Morse,” pleaded Andy; “I am greatly interested in
it all.”

“I am going to tell you, Andy,” responded the inventor, “because I
believe the men who imprisoned me will try to enter the prize contest,
and I want to keep track of them. I don’t dare venture among them
myself, but I may ask you to seek them out and bring me some news.”

“Yes, sir,” said Andy.

“The head man of the crowd is an old circus man named Duske. It is a
good name for him, for he is dark in looks and deed. The idea they have
stolen from me is this: In place of the conventional airship rudder, I
planned to equip the aeroplane with movable rear sections of pipe, the
main sections of this pipe to extend the full length of the craft.
Suction wheels at each end of the main tube force the air backwards
through the tube, the force of this air explosion driving the nose of
the craft into the air when the movable section of the tube is raised,
lowering it when it is pointed downwards, and providing for its lateral
progress on the same principle. Do you follow me?”

“I can almost see the machine right before my eyes, the way you tell
about it!” said Andy, with breathless enthusiasm.



CHAPTER X—LEARNING TO FLY


That was the first of many pleasant and interesting visits that Andy had
with Mr. Morse, the inventor. By the end of the week the automobile boy
had become an airship enthusiast. Andy was charmed. When he was not
pottering about the _Eagle_ or sailing the air with John Parks, he was
with Mr. Morse in a congenial atmosphere of mechanics.

Although John Parks was now engrossed in using his glider, he had not
given up using his dirigible balloon, and he also gave Andy some lessons
in running this.

The dirigible was shaped like a fat cigar, and had under it a frame-work
carrying a thirty horse-power motor and two six-foot suction wheels.
When there was no wind, the dirigible could sail quite well, but in a
breeze it was hard to make much progress, and to use it in a high wind
was entirely out of the question.

[Illustration: HE GAVE ANDY SOME LESSONS IN RUNNING THIS]

“The monoplanes and biplanes make the old-style balloons and the
dirigibles take a back seat,” said the Airship King. “But, just the
same, if your motor gives out, a dirigible is a nice thing to float down
in.”

“I like the dirigible,” answered Andy. “But for speed, give me the new
kind of flying machines.”

Andy was in his element among the lathes, vises, saws, and general tools
of the workshop. Once or twice he made practical suggestions that
pleased Morse greatly. The inventor rarely left the camp, and when he
did it was generally after dark. There was material and aeroplane parts
to purchase. These commissions were entrusted to Andy, and he showed
intelligence in his selections. Once he had to go fifty miles on the
railroad to a factory to have some special devices made. He used such
dispatch, and was so successful in getting just what was wanted by
staying with the order till it was filled, that Mr. Morse warmly
commended him to Parks.

Andy had drifted completely away from the old life. He was fast
forgetting all about the Talbots and his former troubles at Princeville.
One day, in a burst of satisfaction over a trial flight Andy made alone
in a monoplane, John Parks declared that he would not rest until he had
made Andy the junior air king of America. Then Andy felt that he had
found his mission in life, and pursued his new avocation with more
fervor than ever.

About all Parks thought or talked of was the coming aero meet. Andy
learned that he was investing over two thousand dollars in maintaining
the camp and in building the machine with which he was to compete for
the prize. His success would mean something more than the winning of the
five thousand dollars. It would add to the laurels already gained as the
Air King in his former balloon experience, and would make him a
prominent figure in the aviation field.

“Come on, Andy,” he said to his young assistant one afternoon. “We’ll
stroll over to the main grounds and see what new wrinkle these ambitious
fellows are getting up.”

They spent an interesting hour over in the main enclosure where
prospective exhibitors were located. There was quite a crowd of
visitors. Some of the aviators were explaining the make-up of their
machines, and others were making try-out flights. Parks and Andy were
passing to the outfield where the test ascensions were in progress, when
the former suddenly left the side of his companion.

Andy was surprised to see him hasten up behind a sinister-looking man,
who was apparently explaining to an old farmer about the machines. Parks
seized the man rudely by the arm and faced him around squarely. The
latter scowled, and then a strange, wilted expression came into his dark
face.

“Excuse this gentleman, if you will,” said Parks to the farmer.

“Why, suttinly,” bobbed the ruralite. “Much obleeged to him for being so
perlite in showing me ’round.”

Parks drew the shrinking man he had halted to the side of a tent.

“Now, then, Gib Duske,” he said sternly, “what were you up to with that
greenhorn?”

“He told you, didn’t he?” growled the other; “showing him the sights.”

“You’re given to doing such things for nothing!” rejoined Parks
sarcastically. “I recall some of your exploits in that line in the rural
districts when you were with the circus.”

“See here,” broke out the other angrily, “what is it your business?”

“Just this,” retorted Parks steadily; “we’re trying to run a decent
enterprise here, and such persons as you have got to give an account of
themselves or vacate. What’s your game, anyhow?”

“I’m up to no game that I know of,” sullenly muttered the man called Gib
Duske. “If you must know, I’ve entered my airship for the race.”

“You!” exclaimed Parks; “‘Your airship!’ Where did you get an airship?”

“I suppose I have friends to back me like anybody else when they see a
show for their money. I’m an old balloonist. A syndicate, knowing my
professional skill, has put up the capital to give me a try.”

“Oh, they have?” observed Parks incredulously. “I’d like to see your
syndicate.”

“And I’ve got my machine,” declared Duske excitedly, “I’d have you know.
I’ve heard you’re entered. Fair play, then, and I’m going to beat the
field.”

Parks eyed his companion in speculative silence for a minute or two.
Then he said:

“You talk about fair play. Good! You’ll get it here, if you’re square.
If you’re not, you had best take my warning right now, and cut out for
good. There will be no balloon slitting like there was at a certain race
you were in two years ago out West. The first freak or false play you
make to queer an honest go, I’ll expose you to the field.”

“I’ve got no such intentions,” mumbled Duske, with a malicious glance at
his challenger.

“See you don’t, that’s all,” retorted Parks, and walked off. “You
noticed that man?” he added, as he rejoined Andy, who had listened with
interest to the conversation.

“Yes, particularly,” answered Andy, really able to tell his employer
more than he dared.

“Whenever you run across him,” went on the Air King, “keep your eyes
wide open. I’d like to know just how much truth there is in his talk
about entering for the race.”

“Is he a bad man, Mr. Parks?” inquired Andy.

“He was once a confidence man,” explained the aeronaut. “When I knew him
he was giving balloon ascensions at a circus. He had a hired crowd
picking pockets while people were staring up into the air watching his
trapeze acts. Once at a race he slyly slit the balloon of an antagonist,
who was nearly killed by the fall.”

“I’ll find out just what he is doing,” exclaimed Andy.

“You can manage, for he knows me,” observed Parks.

Andy said no more. He was pretty sure from the name and description that
the fellow whom his employer had just called down was the enemy that Mr.
Morse had told him about. He wished he could tell Mr. Parks all that he
knew and surmised, but he could not break his promise to the inventor.

“Hello, there, Ridley!” hailed Parks, as they came to where a lithe,
undersized man was volubly boasting to an open-mouthed crowd about the
superior merits of his machine. “Bragging again?”

“Go on, John Parks,” called the little man good-naturedly. “I’m not in
your class, so what are you jumping on me for?”

“Oh, just to stir you up and keep you encouraged. I hear you’ve got a
machine that will land just as steadily and balance on top of a
telegraph-pole as on a prairie.”

“That’s pretty near the truth, John Parks,” declared Ridley. “I can’t
make a mile in thirty seconds, but I can get to the ground on a straight
dive ahead of your clumsy old _Eagle_, or any other racer on the field.”

“Why, Ridley,” retorted Parks, in a vaunting way, “I’ve got a boy here
who can give you a handicap and double discount you.”

“Is that him?” inquired Ridley, with a stare at Andy.

“That’s him out of harness,” laughed Parks. “Like to see him do
something?”

“Just to show you’re all bluster, I would,” answered Ridley.

“Machine in order?”

“True as a trivet.”

“Andy, give them a sample of a real bird diving, will you?”

“All right,” said Andy.

He had not been tutored by his skillful employer vainly. Andy was in
excellent practice. He got into the clear, started up the Ridley
machine, and took a shoot on a straight slant up into the air about one
hundred and fifty feet.

A cry of surprise went up from the watching group as Andy suddenly let
the biplane slide on a sharp angle towards the ground, shutting off the
power at the same time.

Again reaching a fair height, he tipped the biplane on an angle of five
degrees and came down so fast that the spectators thought something was
wrong. When the machine was within a yard of the ground, Andy brought it
to the horizontal with ease and made a pretty landing.

“Well, Ridley,” rallied John Parks, as the stupefied owner of the
machine stared in open-mouthed wonder, “what do you say to that?”

“What do I say,” repeated Ridley. “I say, look out for your laurels,
John Parks. That boy is a wonder!”



CHAPTER XI—SPYING ON THE ENEMY


“There is that man again, Mr. Parks.”

“Duske? Yes.”

“Shall I follow him?”

“I’d like to know just what he is about.”

“I would like to try and find out,” declared Andy, with more eagerness
than his employer suspected.

“All right, Andy; look him up a bit. Watch out for trouble, though, for
he is a dangerous man.”

It was late in the afternoon of the day succeeding Andy’s sensational
performance, and Parks and his young assistant were again on the
aviation field.

Andy had made out the man whom Parks had called Duske carrying two cans
of gasoline past a tent. He did not seem to have observed Parks, and
Andy did not believe that he knew him. Andy left the side of his
employer, and, circulating around kept Duske in sight from a distance.

The boy had not said anything to Mr. Morse about Duske. He felt certain
that Duske was one of the enemies the inventor had described. Just at
present, however, Andy considered it would be unwise to disturb Morse.
The latter had almost completed the new airship. His mind was absorbed
in his task, and he was working day and night.

Duske passed the last tent on the field, and then struck off beyond some
old railroad sheds to the side of an abandoned switchyard. Scattered
here and there over this space were several tents. They were occupied by
aero contestants who had not been able to get a favorable location on
the big field, or by those who had sought this seclusion because they
wished to be isolated with some fancied new invention, the details of
which they did not wish their contestants to learn.

Finally Duske seemed to arrive at his destination. It was where stout
canvas had been stretched about fifty feet out from the blank side of an
old frame shed. These strips of canvas and the shed cut out completely a
view of what was beyond. The front of this enclosure was guarded by a
roof set up on posts, this leading into the entrance tent of the main
enclosure.

A man about as sinister looking as Duske himself was cooking something
on a stove, and two others were lounging on a bench near by. Duske
carried the gasoline cans out of sight. Andy got around to the side of
the enclosure, way back near its shed end.

It was getting well on toward nightfall, and he felt that he was secure
in making some bold, prompt investigations. There was no doubt that the
large tent enclosed the airship which Duske and his crowd intended to
enter for the race. Andy attempted to lift the canvas at one or two
points, but found it securely pegged to the ground.

“Humph!” he soliloquized, “everything nailed down tight. Must make their
trial flights at midnight. They must think they have got a treasure in
there. I’ve got to see it.”

Finally Andy came to a laced section of the canvas, which he was able to
press apart a foot or more by tight tugging. He squeezed through, and
stood inside the enclosure.

There was light enough to show outlines, and with a good deal of
curiosity Andy walked around and inspected an aeroplane propped up on a
platform in the center of the enclosure. He came to a halt at one end of
the machine. Two long hollow tubes extended beyond the folding planes.

“Why,” breathed Andy, “it’s the idea they stole from Mr. Morse. Here’s
the suction apparatus, and all!”

“Hi, there! who are you?”

The challenge came so sharp and sudden that Andy was taken completely
off his guard. Two men had come from the front tent, their footsteps
being noiseless on the soft earth floor. One of them was the man Duske.

“Just looking around,” replied Andy, edging away and pulling his cap
down over his eyes.

“How did you get in here?”

“Slit in the canvas.”

“Don’t let him go—grab him,” ordered Duske’s companion quickly, and Andy
began to back towards the canvas.

Duske reached out and made a grab at Andy. The latter dodged, but
Duske’s hand landed on his cap. His glance falling to the inside peak,
he could not help reading there the words: “_Eagle_—Andy Nelson.”

Nearly everything worn by Parks and Andy, as all the parts of the
_Eagle_, were marked, so that in case of an accident identification
would be easy.

“_‘Eagle’!_” cried Duske, bristling up. “Do you belong to the _Eagle_
crowd?”

“He’s a spy—head him off!” shouted the other man.

“_‘Eagle’_—‘Andy Nelson’,” continued Duske. “That’s your name, is it?
Now then, what are you snooping around here for?”

“What’s that, what’s that?” challenged the other man quickly. “‘Andy
Nelson?’ Say, Duske, that sounds familiar. I just read that name
somewhere—I have it—in a newspaper——”

“Thunder! he’s slipped us,” exclaimed Duske.

Both men had started for Andy. The latter let them come on, ducked down,
dove straight between them, ran to the slitted canvas, squeezed through,
and sprinted away from the spot on feet of fleetness.

“I don’t know how much I have mixed up affairs,” he reflected, as he
made for the home camp. “Those fellows know my name and that I am with
Mr. Parks. What bothers me most, is what the man said about seeing my
name in a newspaper. Some one here—in an automobile.”

As Andy reached home he observed an automobile in front of the living
quarters. A man came out as Andy stood wondering who the visitor could
be. Andy noticed that he carried a small black case.

“A doctor,” he decided hastily. “Can any one be sick? What has
happened?” he asked, as Scipio came out.

“Hahd luck, chile, hahd luck!” replied the cook very seriously. “Yo
bettah see Mistah Parks right away.”

Andy hurried to the sitting room. Lying covered up on a couch, his right
arm in splints, and looking pale and distressed, was the aeronaut.

“Oh, Mr. Parks! what is the matter?” asked Andy in alarm.

“Everything off, lad,” replied his employer, with a wince and a groan.
“I’ve had a bad fall, arm broken in two places, and we can’t make the
airship race.”



CHAPTER XII—TRACED DOWN


“Be careful, Mr. Parks!”

“Foh goodness sake, sah! Yo want to break dat arm ober again?”

Mr. Morse, the inventor, and Scipio, the cook, made a frantic rush for
the aeronaut. They were grouped together in the center of the space
occupied by their camp. The eyes of each had been fixed on an object
floating about in the air over-head. All had been pleased and excited,
but particularly Parks. Now as the object aloft made a skim that seemed
to beat a mile a minute dash, John Parks lost all control of himself.

He forgot the fractured arm he had carried in a sling for three days,
and actually tried to wave it, as he burst forth:

“Morse, you’re a genius, and that boy, Andy Nelson, is the birdman of
the century!”

Andy deserved the praise fully that was being bestowed upon him. That
morning Mr. Morse had completed the _Racing Star_, his new airship. At
the present moment it was making its initial flight.

The relieved, contented face of Morse showed his satisfaction over the
fact that his work was done and done well. Scipio stared goggle-eyed. As
to John Parks, expert sky sailor that he was, his practiced eye in one
moment had discerned the fact that the _Racing Star_ was the latest and
best thing out in aviation, and he went fairly wild over the masterly
way in which Andy handled the machine.

Andy aloft, had eye, nerve and breath strained to test the splendid
device to its complete capacity. He was himself amazed at the beauty the
utility of the dainty creation just turned out from the workshop. What
the Airship King had taught him Andy had not forgotten. After five
minutes spent in exploiting every angle of skill he possessed, Andy
brought the superb aeroplane down to the ground, graceful as a swan.
John Parks ran up to him, chuckling with delight.

“You wonder! you daisy!” he roared, shaking Andy’s hand with his well
arm.

Andy was flushed with triumph and excitement.

“If there’s any wonder to talk about,” he said, “it’s that glorious
piece of work, the _Racing Star_, and the splendid man who made it.”

Morse smiled, a rare thing for him. Then he said modestly:

“It will do the work, handled as you manage it, Andy.”

“I feel like a caged lion, or an eagle with its wings clipped!” stormed
Parks, with a glance at his bandaged arm. “Why did I go trying to show a
bungling amateur how to run an old wreck of a monoplane, and get my arm
broken for my pains, and lose that five-thousand-dollar prize!”

“There is time to enter a substitute, Mr. Parks,” suggested the
inventor.

“Who?” demanded the aeronaut scornfully. “Some amateur who will sell me
out or bungle the race, and maybe smash up my last thousand dollars?”

“Mr. Parks,” said Andy, in a quick breath, and colored up and paused
suddenly. “I’d be glad to try it. Say the word, and I’ll train day and
night for the race.”

“Andy, win it, and half of that five thousand dollars is yours.”

From excitement and incoherency, the little group got down to a serious
discussion of the situation during the next half hour.

“It’s just one week from the race,” said Andy. “What can’t I do in
learning to run the _Racing Star_ in that time?”

“Andy, you must make it,” declared Parks energetically. “It just seems
as if my heart would break if we lost this record.”

Mr. Morse got out a chart he had drawn of the run to be made on the
twenty-first of the month.

“The course is very nearly a straight one,” explained Parks; “from the
grounds here to Springfield, where the State fair is going on. Pace will
be set by a Central Northern train, carrying assistants and repairs. The
fleet will be directed by a large American flag floating from the rear
of the train. It’s almost a beeline, Andy, and the _Racing Star_ is
built for speed.”

They made another ascent the next morning. Air and breeze conditions
were most favorable for the try-out. Seated amidships, wearing a leather
jacket, cap and gloves, Andy had the motor keyed up to its highest
speed. The quick sequence of its exhaust swelled like a rapid-fire gun.

The machine rolled forward, the propellers beat the air, and the _Racing
Star_ rose on a smooth parabola. Andy attempted some volplane skits that
were fairly hair-raising. He raced with real birds. He practiced with
the wind checks. For half an hour he kept up a series of practice stunts
of the most difficult character.

“Oh, but you’re a crack scholar, Andy Nelson,” declared the delighted
Parks, as the _Racing Star_ came to moorings again, light as a feather.

“I think myself I am getting on to most of the curves,” said Andy. “The
only question is can I keep it up on a long stretch?”

“Practice makes perfect, you know,” suggested Mr. Morse.

Andy felt that he had about reached the acme of his mechanical ambition.
When he went to bed that night the thought of the coming race kept him
awake till midnight. When he finally went to sleep, it was to dream of
aerial flights that resolved themselves into a series of the most
exciting nightmares.

No developments came from Andy’s experience with the Duske crowd. Once
in a while he worried some over the reference of Duske’s companions to
seeing his name in the newspapers.

“Either it was about my trouble at Princeville, or some of these
reporters writing up the race got my name incidentally,” decided Andy.

“Anyhow, I can’t afford to trouble about it.”

Andy rarely ventured away from the camp after dark. In fact, ever since
entering the employment of Mr. Parks he had not mixed much with
outsiders. He had his Princeville friends and the Duske crowd constantly
in mind. But one hot evening he went forth for some ice cream for the
crowd.

The distance to a town restaurant was not great. Andy hurried across the
freight tracks. Just as he passed a switchman’s shanty, he fancied he
heard some one utter a slight cry of surprise. Two persons dodged back
out of the light of a switch lantern. Andy, however, paid little
attention to the episode. He reached the restaurant, got the ice cream
in a pasteboard box, and started back for the camp without any mishap or
adventure.

Just as Andy crossed a patch of ground covered with high rank weeds, he
became aware that somebody was following him. A swift backward glance
revealed two slouching figures. They pressed forward as Andy momentarily
halted.

“Now then!” spoke one of them suddenly.

Andy dodged as something was thrown towards him, but not in time to
avoid a looped rope. It was handled deftly, for before he knew it his
hands were bound tightly to his side.

One of the twain ran at him and tripped him up. The other twined the
loose line about Andy’s ankles.

“Got him!” sounded a triumphant voice.

“Good business,” chirped his companion, and then Andy thrilled in some
dismay, as he recognized his captors as Gus Talbot and Dale Billings.

“Hello, Andy Nelson,” said Gus Talbot.

Gus’s voice was sneering and offensive as he hailed the captive. His
companion looked satisfied and triumphant as he stood over Andy, as if
he expected their victim to applaud him for doing something particularly
smart.

“See here, Gus,” observed Dale, “I’d better get, hey?”

“Right off, too,” responded Gus. “If there’s the ready cash in it, all
right. If there isn’t we’ll get him on the way to Princeville ourselves
some way.”

“Can you manage him alone?”

“I’ll try to,” observed Gus vauntingly, “I’ll just have a pleasant
little chat with him for the sake of old times, while I sample this ice
cream of his—um-um—it ought to be prime.”

Dale sped away on some mysterious errand. Gus picked up the box of ice
cream that Andy had dropped and opened it. He tore off one of its
pasteboard flaps, fashioned it into an impromptu spoon, and proceeded to
fill his mouth with the cream.

“Don’t you get up,” he warned Andy. “If you do, I’ll knock you down
again.”

“Big Injun, aren’t you!” flared out Andy, provoked and
indignant—“especially where you’ve got a fellow whipsawed?”

“Betcher life,” sneered Gus maliciously. “Things worked to a charm. Got
a hint from some airship fellows that you was somewhere around these
diggings. Watched out for you and caught you just right, hey?”

The speaker sat down among the weeds in front of Andy. The latter
noticed that his face was grimed and his hands stained with dirt. His
clothes were wrinkled and disordered as if he had been sleeping in them.
From what he observed, Andy decided that the son of the Princeville
garage owner and his companion were on a tramp. They looked like
runaways, and did not appear to be at all prosperous.

“Say,” blurted out Gus, digging down into the ice cream, as if he was
hungry, “you might better have turned up that two hundred dollars for
dad.”

“Why had I?” demanded Andy.

“It would have saved you a good deal of trouble. It’s a stroke of luck,
running across you just as we’d spent our last dime. How will you like
to go back to Princeville and face the music?”

“What music?”

“Oh, yes, you don’t know! Haven’t read the papers, I suppose? Didn’t
know you was wanted?”

“Who wants me?”

“Nor that a reward was out for you?”

“Why?”

“Say, are you so innocent as all that, or just plain slick?” drawled
Gus, with a crafty grin.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Farmer Jones’ barn.”

“Oh——” Andy gave a start. He began to understand now. “What about Farmer
Jones’ barn?”

“You know, I guess. It was set on fire and burned down. They have been
looking everywhere for the firebug, and offer a fifty-dollar reward.”

“Is that the reason why you and Dale have left Princeville?” demanded
Andy coolly.

“Eh, well, I guess not,” cried Gus. “Huh! Everybody knows how you did it
out of spite against Jones because he hindered you running away from
dad. Why, they found your cap right near the barn ruins.”

“Is that so?” said Andy quietly. “How did it get there?”

“How did it get there? You dropped it there, of course.”

“Purposely to get blamed for it, I suppose?” commented Andy. “That’s
pretty thin, Gus Talbot, seeing that you know and your father knows that
my cap was taken away from me when he locked me up at the garage, and I
had no chance to get it later. You left the cap near the burned barn,
Gus Talbot, and you know it.”

“Me? Rot!” ejaculated Gus, but he stopped eating the ice cream and acted
restless.

“In fact,” continued Andy definitely, “I can prove that both you and
Dale were sneaking about the Jones’ place a short time before the fire
broke out.”

“Bosh!” mumbled Gus.

“Further than that, I can tell you word for word what passed between you
two. Listen.”

Andy remembered clearly every incident of his flight from the haystack
in Farmer Jones’ field. He recited graphically the appearance of Gus and
Dale, and the remark he had overheard. Gus sat staring at him in an
uneasy way. He acted bored, and seemed at a loss to answer.

It was more than half an hour before Dale returned. He acted glum and
mad.

“Is it all right?” inquired Gus eagerly.

“Right nothing!”

“Get the money?”

“No.”

“What’s the trouble?”

“I saw a constable and told him I could give him a chance to make a
fifty-dollar reward, us to get ten. He heard me through and said it
wouldn’t do.”

“Why wouldn’t it?” demanded Gus.

“Because this is in another county, and he’d have to get the warrant.
Said it was too much trouble to bother with it.”

“Humph! what will we do now?” muttered Gus in a disgusted way.

“That’s easy. Get Andy over the county line, and find someone else to
take the job off our hands,” replied Dale Billings.



CHAPTER XIII—JIU-JITSU


“Come on,” ordered Gus to Andy, unfastening the end of the rope and
giving it a jerk.

“Hey, not that way,” dissented Dale.

“Why not?”

“Think you can parade him through the town without attracting attention?
We’ve got to be careful to cut out from here without a soul seeing us
till we strike a country road. You march,” commanded Gus anew to his
captive, heading in another direction. “And you just so much as peep if
we meet anybody, and you get a whack of this big stick.”

Andy submitted to circumstances. He figured out that it would be some
time before his captors could perfect their arrangements for interesting
some officer of the law in their scheme. He readily guessed that for
some reason or other they did not wish or dare to return personally to
Princeville. Andy calculated that it was nearly ten miles to the county
line. He believed he would have half a dozen chances to break away from
his captors before they reached it.

“Huh, what you going to do now?” inquired Gus in a grumbling tone, as
they came directly up against a high board fence.

“You wait here a minute,” directed Dale.

The speaker ran down the fence in one direction to face at its end a
busy field occupied by aviation tents. He tried the opposite direction
to find matters still worse, for there the fence ended against a lighted
street of the town.

“What’s beyond the fence?” inquired Gus.

“Not much of anything—a sort of a prairie,” reported Dale, peering
through a crack in the fence.

“We can’t scale it.”

“Not with Andy in tow. Here we are, though.”

Dale had discovered a loose board. He began tugging at its lower end,
and succeeded in pulling it far enough out to admit of their crowding
through the opening. He went first, grabbing and holding Andy till Gus
made the passage.

“Keep away from those lights over yonder,” ordered Dale, indicating a
point on the broad expanse where some aeroplane tents showed. “This way,
I tell you,” he added in a hoarse, hurried whisper. “There’s a man.”

Andy pushed forward, came to a dead halt, bracing himself as his captors
tried to pull him out of range of a man seated on a hummock, apparently
watching some night manœuvres of airships over where the lights showed.

“Mister, oh, mister!” shouted Andy.

He received a blow on the mouth from the fist of Gus, but that did not
prevent him from renewing the outcry. The man sprang quickly to his feet
and came towards them.

He was small, thin, dark-faced, and so undersized and effeminate-looking
that Andy at once decided that he would not count for much in a tussle
with two stout, active boys. Dale thought so, too, evidently, for he
squared up in front of Andy, trying to hide him from the view of the
stranger, while Gus attempted to pull his captive back towards the
fence. Andy, however, gave a jerk that drew Gus almost off his feet, and
a bunt to Dale that sent him forcibly to one side.

“What is this?” spoke the stranger in a soft, mellow, almost womanly
tone of voice. “Did some one then call?”

“It was I,” proclaimed Andy. “These fellows have tied me up and are
trying to kidnap me.”

“It is wrong, I will so investigate,” said the little man, coming
straight up to the group and scanning each keenly in turn.

“See here,” spoke Dale, springing in front of the man, “this is none of
your business.”

“Oh, yes, it is,” returned the stranger in the same gentle, purring way.
“I am interested. Speak on, young man.”

“Get him away!” directed Dale in a sharp whisper to Gus.

Then, quick as lightning, he made a pass at the stranger. He was double
the weight of the latter and half a head taller. Andy expected to see
his champion flatten out like the weakling he looked.

“Ah,” said the latter, “it is so you answer questions. My way, then.”

What he did he did so quickly that Andy could not follow all of his
movements. The hands of the little man moved about like those of an
expert weaver at the loom. The result was a marvel. In some way he
caught Dale around the neck. The next moment he swung him from the
ground past his shoulder and his adversary landed with a thump.

Gus dropped the rope and ran at the stranger, club uplifted. Again the
wiry strength of the little man was exerted. He seemed to stoop, and his
arms enclosed Gus about the hips. There was a tug and tussle. Gus was
wrenched from his footing, and went skidding to the ground, face down,
for nearly two yards.

“Thunder!” he shouted, wiping the sand from his mouth.

[Illustration: THE WIRY STRENGTH OF THE LITTLE MAN WAS EXERTED]

“Go,” said the stranger, advancing upon the prostrate twain, who
scrambled promptly to their feet.

Both dove for the loose plank in the fence and disappeared through it.
The stranger drew out a pocket-knife and relieved Andy of his bonds.

“I look at you and then at those two,” he said simply, “and your face
tells me the true story. Where would you go?”

Andy pointed in the direction of the Parks’ Aerodome, and the man walked
by his side in its direction.

“I don’t care to have those fellows find out where I am working,”
explained Andy. “Mister,” he added admiringly, “how did you do it?”

“It was simple jiu-jitsu.”

“Eh? Oh, yes, I’ve heard of that,” said Andy, but vaguely. “It’s a new
Japanese wrestling trick, isn’t it?”

“I am from Japan,” observed his companion with a courteous dignity of
manner that impressed Andy.

“I see,” nodded Andy, “and you come from a wonderful people.”

“We strive to learn,” replied his companion. “That is why I am here. I
was sent to this country to study aeronautics. Besides that, the science
has a peculiar attraction for me. My father was chief kite maker to the
family of the Mikado.”

“Is it possible?” said Andy.

“I therefore have an absorbing interest in your airmen and their daring
work. You must know that we make wonderful kites in my home country.”

“I have heard something of it,” said Andy.

“Two hundred years ago many of the principles now used in your airships
were used in our kite flying, only we never tried to fly ourselves.”

“We have a gentleman up at our camp who would be just delighted to talk
with you,” declared Andy enthusiastically. “He is an inventor, a Mr.
Morse.”

“I should like to meet him,” said the Japanese.

“Then come right along with me,” invited Andy cordially; “only, say,
please, don’t mention the fix you found me in.”

“It shall be so,” declared his companion.

Andy made sure that his recent captors were not following them as they
made a cut across a field and reached the Parks’ camp. He led his guest
into the sitting room of the living building, to find his employer and
Mr. Morse there. Andy introduced his companion. It did not take long for
the inventor to discover a kindred spirit in the Japanese, who gave his
name as Tsilsuma.

That night after he had got into bed Andy wondered if he had not better
tell Mr. Morse or his employer his entire story, and the former about
the near proximity of his old-time enemy, Duske. Then, too, he worried
some over the appearance of Gus and Dale and his daily risk of being
arrested. With daylight, however, Andy forgot all these minor troubles.

There was to be a race for a small prize that afternoon on the aviation
field, and Parks had arranged for the _Racing Star_ to participate. The
aeronaut was busy half the morning seeing to the machine, while Mr.
Morse flitted about adjusting a device suggested by the intelligent
Tsilsuma for folding the floats under the aeroplane. The Japanese, too,
had suggested sled runners in front and wheels at the rear for starting
gear.

The _Racing Star_ had not appeared in the general field before, and this
was a kind of qualification flight. Just after two o’clock Parks made
his final inspection of the bearings of the motors and the word to go
was given. Andy sailed over the railroad tracks and landed in the field
half a mile distant, with a dexterity that made his rivals there take a
good deal of notice of him and the _Racing Star_.

When the word came Andy started the motor, and a friend of the aeronaut
tugged at the propellers. With a blast that resembled a cyclone the
airship started.

The helpers worked at the rudders, and after a run of only seventy-five
feet the _Racing Star_ shot up into the air.

Andy tried a preliminary stunt that he had practiced for two days past.
It was to fly around the field in a figure eight at a height of
ninety-five feet. Then, just to test the excellency of the machine, he
plunged for the ground.

“The boy will kill himself!” shouted the man in charge of the race, but
just at the critical moment Andy shifted his steering planes and flew
across the ground, barely skimming the grass.

Once in this fashion he went around the course, then another upward
lunge and he circled back to the starting point and came gently to
earth. The crowds sent up an enthusiastic roar.

Four other machines made their exhibition in turn. Two went through a
clumsy process, one became disabled, and the other retired with the
derisive criticism of “Grasshopper!” as its pilot failed to lift it more
than ten feet from the ground at any time.

“Mind the wind checks, Andy, lad,” warned John Parks anxiously, as the
three aeroplanes were ranged for the prize test of a mile run around the
course.

“I’ll be the pathfinder or nothing!” declared Andy, his eyes bright and
observant, his nerves tingling with the excitement of the moment.

“Go!”

The three powerful mechanical birds arose in the air, dainty creations
of grace and beauty, Andy in the lead. Then his nearest competitor
passed him. Then No. 3 shot ahead of the other two, and then the turn.

“Huzza!” breathed Parks.

At his side, safe from recognition in his great disfiguring goggles, Mr.
Morse moved restlessly from foot to foot. The _Racing Star_ had
accomplished what he had worked so hard to bring about—a true circle in
a rapid turn.

The two other machines bungled. One nearly upset. Down the course came
Andy, headed like an arrow for the starting point. A slanting dive, and
the _Racing Star_ skimmed the ground fully five hundred feet in advance
of the nearest opponent.

Watch in hand, John Parks ran up to Andy, his face aglow with
professional pride and delight.

“Won the race—but better than that you have beat the home record by
eight seconds!”

“Winner, the _Racing Star_,” sang out the starter.

And then he added:

“Time: forty-eight seconds and seven-eighths.”

“Hurrah!” shouted John Parks, throwing his hat in the air.



CHAPTER XIV—THE OLD LEATHER POCKETBOOK


“No sky-sailing to-day, Andy,” said John Parks, the aeronaut.

“I guess you are right,” answered Andy.

“A rest won’t do you any harm. There are three days before the last
event, and plenty of time to try Morse’s new wrinkles.”

“I think I’ll go and see what the latest one is,” said Andy.

It was a rainy day with a strong breeze, and waste of time, Andy well
knew, to attempt any flights under the conditions. He went to the
workshop to find Mr. Morse and the Japanese deep in discussion over some
angle of a new reversible plane, they called it. Tsilsuma had become
almost a fixture at the Parks’ camp. He was unobtrusive generally, but
his instincts and mission to delve and absorb were accommodated and
encouraged by the inventor, and a strong friendship had sprung up
between the two.

Andy wandered about promiscuously, time hanging heavily on his hands.
Finally he settled down in the comfortable sitting room looking over
some books on scientific subjects, and picking out here and there a
simple fact among a group of very abstruse ones.

“If ever I get any money ahead,” he observed, “I’ll put some of it into
education, and I’ll study up aeronautics first thing. It seems as if
it’s natural for me to see right through a machine first time I see it,
but I don’t understand the real principles, for all that. No, sir, it’s
brains like Mr. Morse has got that counts. If sky-sailing is going to
last, and I follow it up, I’m going to dig deep right down into it,
college fashion, and really understand my business. Hello!”

Andy had laid aside the scientific book and had taken up a newspaper.
Glancing over its columns, his eye became fixed upon an advertisement
occupying a prominent position just under some local reading matter.
This is what it read.

                           Notice—Important!

Lost—Somewhere on a train between Macon and Greenville, an old leather
pocketbook, marked Robert Webb, Springfield, and containing $200. The
finder may keep the money, and upon return of the pocketbook will be
handsomely rewarded.

                 West, Thorburn & Castle, _Attorneys_,
                       Butler Block, Greenville.

“Well,” aspirated Andy energetically, “here’s something new!”

The incident stirred up his thought so much that he found himself
walking the floor restlessly. Andy had a vivid imagination, and he built
up all kinds of fancies about the singular advertisement.

“Wonder what lies under all this?” ruminated Andy. “They don’t want the
two hundred dollars, and they offer more money to get back that old
pocketbook! They will never get the whole of it, though, that’s certain.
Gus Talbot tore off the flap of it. The rest of it—lying in my old
clothes in that shed on the Collins farm, where I helped drive those
geese. There was nothing left in the pocketbook, I am sure of that. What
can they want it for, then? Evidently Mr. Webb didn’t get my postal
card.”

Andy could not figure this out. He found it impossible, however, to
dismiss the subject from his mind.

“People don’t go to all the bother that advertising shows,” he reasoned,
“unless it’s mighty important. Can I get the pocketbook, though, after
all. I threw it carelessly up on a sort of a shelf in that old shed, and
it may have been removed and destroyed with other rubbish. I’ve got the
day before me, with nothing to do. I wouldn’t be at all sorry if the two
hundred dollars came my way in a fair, square manner. I’ll run down to
Greenville. It won’t take four hours, there and back. I’ll see what
there is to this affair—yes, I’ll do it.”

Andy sought out Mr. Parks and told him he was going to take a run down
to Greenville on business, and would be back by evening at the latest.
He caught a train about ten o’clock, and noon found him at the door of
the law offices of West, Thorburn & Castle, Butler Block. Our hero
entered one of three offices, where he saw a gentleman seated at a desk.

“I would like to see some member of the firm,” he said.

“I am Mr. West,” answered the lawyer.

“It is about an advertisement you put in the paper about a lost
pocketbook,” explained Andy.

“Oh, indeed,” said Mr. West, looking interested at once, and arising and
closing the door. “Do you know something about it?”

“I know all about it,” declared Andy. “In fact, I found it only a few
minutes after it was lost.”

“On the train?”

“No, sir. Mr. Webb did not lose it on the train.”

“He thinks he did.”

“He is mistaken,” said Andy. “He lost it in an automobile that took him
on a rush run from Princeville across country to Macon. I was his
chauffeur, and found it.”

“Where is the pocketbook?” inquired the lawyer eagerly. “Have you
brought it with you?”

“No, sir; but I think I can get it.”

“We will make it richly worth your while,” said Mr. West.

“There is something I had better explain about it,” said Andy.

“Spent the two hundred dollars?” insinuated the lawyer, with an
indulgent smile.

“Oh, no—the two hundred dollars is waiting for Mr. Webb to claim it with
Mr. Dawson, the banker at Princeville. Let me tell you my story, Mr.
West, and then you will understand better.”

Andy told his story. He had a surprised, but intent listener. When he
had concluded, the lawyer shook his hand warmly.

“Young man, you are a good, honest young fellow, and you will not regret
acting square in this affair. Mr. Webb did not get your postal card,
because he is no longer located at Springfield. How far from here is the
farm you spoke of where you left the pocketbook?”

“About eighteen miles, I should think.”

“Can you get there by rail?”

“Within two miles of it.”

“And soon?”

“Why, yes, sir,” replied Andy, glancing at his watch. “There is a train
west in a quarter of an hour.”

“At any expense,” said Mr. West earnestly, “get there and return with
the pocketbook. As to your reward——”

“Don’t speak of it,” said Andy. “Mr. Webb treated me handsomely when I
brought him over to Macon. I can’t imagine, though, why he puts so much
store by the pocketbook.”

“If you find it, he will tell you why,” responded Mr. West. “You will be
doing the best piece of work you ever did in finding that pocketbook. I
shall telegraph my client to come here at once. He will be here by four
o’clock.”

“And I will be here not more than an hour later,” said Andy.

He left the office on a brisk walk, planning his proposed route to the
old farm. As he reached the street, he again glanced at his watch and
found he had just ten minutes to reach the depot. Andy made a running
spurt down the pavement.

He dodged an automobile speeding around a corner, heard its driver shout
something he did not catch. Then he heard the machine turn and start
furiously down the street in the direction he was going.

Andy saw some people stare at him, halt, and then look towards the
speeding machine. Wondering what was up, he glanced back to notice the
driver of the machine waving one hand frantically towards him as if bent
on overtaking him.

At the same moment the man in the machine bawled out:

“Hey, stop that boy!”



CHAPTER XV—BEHIND THE BARS


Andy stopped running at the loud alarm from the automobile. Several
persons started to block his course and one man caught him by the coat
sleeve. Andy recognized his pursuer at once. It was Seth Talbot.

The Princeville garage owner ran his car up to the curb and jumped out.
His face was red with exertion and excitement, and he grasped Andy
roughly by the arm.

“What’s the trouble?” queried the man who had detained Andy.

“Escaped criminal—firebug,” mumbled Talbot. “In with you,” and he forced
Andy into the machine. “Hey, officer, take charge of this prisoner.”

Talbot hailed a man in uniform pressing his way through the gathering
crowd.

“What is he charged with?” inquired the officer.

“Burning a barn at Princeville. Get him to the station and I’ll explain
to your chief.”

There was no chance for Andy to expostulate or struggle. The officer
held him tightly by one wrist, while Talbot whisked them away till they
reached a police station.

Here the garage owner drew the officer in charge to one side. They held
a brief consultation. Andy caught a word here and there. It was
sufficient to apprise him of the fact that there was a reward offered
for his arrest, and Talbot was agreeing to divide it with the officer if
he would take charge of Andy till he was delivered over to the
authorities at Princeville.

“You are in charge of the law now, young man,” said the officer, leading
Andy back to the automobile. “I won’t shackle you, but don’t try any
tricks.”

He and Andy occupied the rear seat in the automobile, while Talbot drove
the machine.

“May I say something to you?” inquired Andy of the officer.

“About what?” asked the officer.

“My being arrested this way. I don’t see what right Mr. Talbot has to
chase me and give orders about me like some condemned felon. I haven’t
seen any warrant for my arrest.”

“You’ll see it soon enough. Meanwhile don’t say anything to incriminate
yourself,” returned the officer, glibly using the pet phrase of his
calling.

“I’ve done nothing to be incriminated,” declared Andy indignantly. “What
I wanted to ask was the simple favor of getting word to some people here
in Greenville, who have sent me on an errand, and will be put out and
disappointed if I don’t show up.”

“What people?” quizzed Talbot, overhearing Andy and half turning around
in his seat.

“A firm of lawyers here——” began Andy.

“Yah!” derided the garage owner. “Guessed it was something of that sort.
Want to tangle up this affair with some legal quibble! Officer, you just
hold on to him tight. He’s a slippery fellow.”

Andy saw that it would be useless to appeal to either of his companions
in the automobile, and put in his time doing some pretty serious
thinking as the machine sped over the landscape.

“This is a bad fix at a bad time,” reflected Andy. “The lawyer will
expect me back as I promised, and think all kinds of things about me
because I don’t come. And there’s Mr. Parks. And the race. I mustn’t
miss that! But then, I am arrested. They’ll lock me up. Suppose they
really prove I fired that barn?” Andy’s heart beat painfully with dread
and suspense.

The town hall at Princeville was reached. Andy had been in the main
offices of the structure many times, but this was his first visit to the
lower floor of the building where the prisoners were kept. He only
casually knew the deputy sheriff in charge of the barred cage, and who
looked Andy over as he would any criminal brought to him to lock up.

“This is Andy Nelson—Jones’ barn—ran away—reward.” Andy was somewhat
chilled as the deputy nodded and proceeded to enter his name in a big
book before him on the desk.

“Search him,” said the official to the turnkey.

“Hello!” ejaculated Talbot, as Andy’s watch was brought into view, and
“hello!” he repeated with eyes goggling still more, as Andy’s pocketbook
came to light, and outside of some small bills and silver, a
neatly-folded bill was produced.

The officer himself looked surprised at this. Andy, however, did not
tell them that this represented the prize he had won at the aviation
meet, treasured proudly in its entirety.

“Wonder if that’s some of the money I’ve found short in my business?”
insinuated Talbot.

“If there is any shortage in your receipts,” retorted Andy indignantly,
“you had better ask your son about it.”

The shot told. The garage owner flushed up.

“What’s that?” he covered his evident confusion by asking, as the
officer unfolded a slip of printed paper.

It was the advertisement about the lost leather pocketbook, that Andy
had preserved. Glancing over the shoulder of the officer and taking in
its purport, Talbot gave a start. Then he eyed Andy in an eager,
speculative way, but was silent.

“What are you going to do with me?” Andy asked of the officer.

“Lock you up, of course.”

“Won’t I be allowed to send word to my friends?”

“Who are they?” demanded the officer.

“I think Mr. Dawson, the banker, is one of them,” replied Andy.

“Mr. Dawson has been away from town for a week, and will not return for
two.”

Andy’s face fell. The thought of the banker had come to him hopefully.

“Can I telegraph, then?” he asked, “to friends out of town?”

“Telegraph,” sneered Talbot. “My great pumpkins, with your new suit of
clothes and watch and one hundred dollar bills and telegrams!”

“I can grant you no favors before I have notified the prosecuting
attorney of your arrest,” said the deputy. “Lock him up, turnkey.”

All this seemed very harsh and ominous to Andy, but he did not allow it
to depress him. He followed the turnkey without another word. The latter
unlocked a great barred door, and Andy felt a trifle chilled as it
reclosed on him and he was a prisoner.

“How do you do, Mr. Chase?” he said, as he recognized the lockup-keeper,
an old grizzled man, who limped towards him.

“Got you, did they?” spoke the man. “Sorry, Andy.”

“Yes, I am sorry, too, just at this time. Of course you know, I’m not
the kind of a fellow to burn down a man’s barn.”

“Know it—guess I know. I can prove——” began Chase, so excitedly, that
Andy stared at him in some wonder. “See here,” continued Chase,
controlling himself, “I’ve got something to say to you later on. Just
for the present, you count on me as your friend. I’ll see you get the
best going in this dismal place.”

“Thank you, Mr. Chase,” said Andy.

“You needn’t sleep in any cell. I’ll let you have a cot in my room,”
continued Chase with earnestness and emotion. “Andy——” and there the
speaker choked up, and he grasped Andy’s hand, and turning away trembled
all over. “You’re a blessed good boy, and you’ve got a true friend in
me, and remember what I tell you—they will never find you guilty of
burning down Jones’ barn.”

Andy returned the pressure of the hand of the man whom he was meeting
under peculiar circumstances, feeling sure that his avowed friendship
was genuine. He had good reason to believe this.

When Andy had come to Princeville, Chase was a worthless drunkard, who
worked rarely and who was in the lockup most of the time. One winter’s
night, as Andy was returning from taking a customer to the lake, he
lined a swampy stretch and noticed a huddled-up figure lying at its
half-frozen edge.

Andy got out of the automobile and discovered a man, his body and
clothes half frozen down into the reeds and grass. It was Chase, sodden
with drink and fast perishing.

Andy managed to get the poor fellow in the tonneau and drove home. It
was late, and Talbot had left the garage for the night. Andy dragged his
helpless guest into his little den of a room and hurried for a doctor.
He was a favorite with the physician, for whom he had done many little
favors, and the latter worked over the half-frozen Chase for nearly two
hours. He refused to think of taking any pay, and at Andy’s request
promised to say nothing about the incident.

Andy kept his little oil stove going all night and plied the patient
with warm drinks. When morning came Chase was awake and sober, but he
was so weak and full of pain he could hardly move.

All that day and into the next Andy managed to house and care for Chase
without detection. Talbot finally discovered the intruder, however. He
stormed fearfully. He was for at once sending for an officer and having
Chase sent to jail or the workhouse.

Andy pleaded hard for the poor refugee. Talbot declared that his wet
garments had spoiled the automobile cushions. Andy got Chase to agree
that he would work this out when he got well, and Talbot was partly
mollified.

When Chase got about he did some drudgery at Talbot’s home. Then one day
he came to tell Andy that Talbot had got him a position. Chase was well
acquainted with prison ways. Talbot had quite some political influence,
and the forlorn old wreck was installed as lockup-keeper at the town
jail.

Once a week regularly he came to visit Andy at the garage. It was
usually Saturday nights, after the others had gone home. Chase would
bring along some dainty for Andy to cook, and they would have quite a
congenial time. During all this time Chase never touched a drop of
liquor. He told Andy he had received the lesson of his life, leaving him
crippled in one limb, and that he would show Andy his gratitude for his
rescue by keeping the pledge.

“Mr. Chase,” now said Andy, “there is something you can do for me, if
you will.”

“Speak it out, Andy,” responded the lockup keeper eagerly.

“I want to send a telegram to a friend right away. They have taken all
my money from me, but the message can go collect.”

Chase hobbled down the corridor rapidly to return with paper and pencil.

“Write out your message, Andy,” he said. “I’ll see that it goes without
delay.”

Andy wrote out a telegram to John Parks. It ran:

“Under arrest on a false charge. I want to see you on important
business.”

Chase took the message, put on his hat, and going to the barred door
tapped on it.

The turnkey appeared and unlocked the door. As Chase passed out, Andy
observed that someone passed into the cell room. It was Seth Talbot.

“I want a little talk with you, Andy Nelson,” spoke the garage owner,
“and it will pay you to listen to what I have to say.”



CHAPTER XVI—BAIL WANTED


The garage owner moved a few feet away from the grated door of the cell
room and sat down on a bench. He beckoned to Andy.

“No, I’ll stand up,” said our hero.

“All right, I won’t be long. Short and sweet is my motto. To begin with,
Andy Nelson, I’ve been a second father to you.”

“I never knew it,” observed the boy.

“Don’t get saucy,” replied Talbot. “It don’t show the right spirit. I
gave you a job when you didn’t have any, and took on myself a big
responsibility—agreeing to look after you like a regular apprentice.
What is the result? Ingratitude.”

Andy was silent, but he looked at Talbot, marveling that the man, mean
as he was, could imagine that he meant what he said.

“You’ve brought me lots of trouble,” pursued Talbot in an aggrieved
tone. “The worst of all is that it’s led to my son running away from
home.”

The speaker evidently thought that Andy knew all about this, while in
reality Andy only guessed it.

“Oh, I’m responsible for that, too, am I?” observed Andy.

“Yes, you are. You left me in the lurch, and while Gus was off with a
customer some one robbed the money drawer. I was mad and accused Gus of
taking it. Gus got mad and left home.”

“What did I have to do with that?”

“Why, if you’d stayed where you belonged it wouldn’t have happened,
would it?”

Andy actually laughed outright at this strange reasoning.

“What!” he cried. “Me, the firebug, me, the thief you accuse me of
being!”

“Well, anyhow, you’ve been a lot of expense and trouble to me. Now
you’re in a hard fix. You are dead sure to go to the reformatory until
you are twenty-one years of age, unless some one steps in and saves
you.”

“You think so, do you, Mr. Talbot?”

“I am certain of it.”

“Who’s going to step in and save me?” inquired Andy innocently.

“I’m the only man who can.”

“Oh!”

“And I will, if you’re willing to do your share.”

“What is my share?” demanded Andy.

“Doing what I advise you. I’m a man of influence and power in this
community,” boasted the garage owner. “I can fix up this business all
right with Jones. You’ve got to help, though.”

“All right, name your terms,” said Andy.

“I wouldn’t put it ‘terms,’ Andy,” replied Talbot, looking eager and
insinuating, “call it rights. There’s that two hundred dollars at the
bank. It was found on my property by one of my hired employees. Good,
that gives me legal possession according to law.”

“Does it?” nodded Andy. “I didn’t know that before.”

“You can get that money by going after it,” continued Talbot.

“How can I?”

“Why, that advertisement they found in your pocket says so, don’t it?
See here, Andy,” and Talbot looked so mean and greedy that our hero
could hardly keep from shuddering with disgust, “tell me about that
advertisement—all about it, I want to be a good friend to you. I am a
shrewd business man, and you’re only a boy. They’ll chisel you out of
it, if you don’t have some older person to stand by you. I’ll stand by
you, Andy.”

“Chisel me out of what?” inquired Andy, intent on drawing out his
specious counsellor to the limit.

“What’s your due. They’re after the pocketbook that held the two hundred
dollars. Don’t you see they’re breaking their necks to get it back? Why?
aha!”

“That’s so,” murmured Andy, as if it were all news to him.

“So, if you know what became of that pocketbook——”

“Yes,” nodded Andy.

“And where it is——”

“I do,” declared Andy.

“Capital!” cried Talbot, getting excited. “Then we’ve got them. Ha! Ha!
They can’t squirm away from us. Where’s the pocketbook, Andy? You just
hand this business right over to me. I’ll do the negotiating.”

“And if I do?” insinuated Andy.

“You won’t be prosecuted on this firebug charge. I’ll take you back at
the garage and raise your salary.”

“How much?” inquired Andy.

“Well—I’ll be liberal. I’ll raise your wages twenty-five cents a week.”

“Mr. Talbot, if you made it twenty-five dollars I wouldn’t touch it, no,
nor twenty-five hundred dollars. You talk about your goodness to me.
Why, you treated me like a slave. As to the two hundred dollars, it
stays right where it is until its rightful owner claims it. If he then
wants to give it to me as a reward, you can make up your mind you won’t
get a cent of it.”

“You young reprobate!” shouted Talbot, jumping to his feet, aflame with
rage. “I’ll make you sing another tune soon. It rests with me as to your
staying in jail. I’ll just go and see those lawyers myself.”

“You will waste your time,” declared Andy. “I have told them all about
you from beginning to end, and they’re too smart to play into any of
your dodges.”

“We’ll see! We’ll see!” fumed the garage owner, as he went to the
cell-room door and shook it to attract the attention of the turnkey.
“I’ll see you once more—just once more, mind you, and that’s to-morrow
morning. You’ll decide then, or you’ll have a hard run of it.”

Andy was left to himself. He walked around the stout cell room with some
curiosity. There were two other prisoners in jail. Both were locked up
in cells. One of them asked Andy for a drink of water. The other was
asleep on his cot.

A clang at the barred door attracted Andy’s attention again, and he
reached it as the turnkey shouted out in a tone that sounded very
official:

“Andrew Nelson!”

He stood aside for Andy to step out. An officer Andy had not seen before
took him by the arm and led him up two flights of stairs to a large
courtroom.

It had no visitors, but the judge sat on the bench. Near him was the
prosecuting attorney and the court clerk. Talbot occupied a chair, and
conversing with him was Farmer Jones.

“We enter the appearance of the prisoner in this case, your honor,”
immediately spoke the attorney, as if in a hurry to get through with the
formalities.

“Let the clerk enter the same,” ordered the judge in an indifferent
tone. “Take the prisoner before the grand jury when it convenes.”

“In the matter of bail——” again spoke the attorney.

“Arson. A pretty serious offense,” said the judge. “The prisoner is held
over in bonds of two thousand dollars.”

Andy’s heart sank. He had heard and read of cases where generally a few
hundred dollars bail was asked. He had even calculated in his mind how
he could call friends to his assistance who would go his surety for a
small amount, but two thousand dollars.

“How are you, Andy?” said Jones, advancing and looking him over
critically. Andy was a trifle pale, but his bearing was manly, his
countenance open and honest. He was neatly dressed, and looked the
energetic business boy all over, and evidently impressed the farmer that
way.

“I’m glad to see you, Mr. Jones,” he said respectfully.

“I suppose you feel a little hard agin’ me, Andy, but I couldn’t help
it. That barn cost me eight hundred dollars.”

“It was a serious loss, yes, sir,” said Andy, “and I am sorry for you.”

Jones fidgeted. Talbot was talking to the attorney, and the farmer
seemed glad to get away from his company.

“See here, Andy,” he said, edging a little nearer, “I’ve got boys of my
own, and it makes me feel badly to see you in this fix.”

“What did you place me here for, then?” demanded Andy.

“I—I thought—you see, Talbot had the evidence. He egged me on, so to
speak. Honest and true, Andy, did you set fire to my barn?”

“Honest and true, Mr. Jones, I had no hand in it. Why should I? You have
always been pleasant and good to me.”

“Why, you see, I stopped you running away from Talbot that day.”

“And you think I turned firebug out of spite? Oh, Mr. Jones!”

“H’m—see here, judge,” and Jones moved up to the desk. “I don’t know
that I care to prosecute this case.”

“Out of your hands, Mr. Jones,” snapped the prosecuting attorney
sharply. “The case must go to the grand jury.”

“Andy—I—I’ll come and see you,” said Jones, as the officer marched Andy
back to the jail room.

“Two thousand dollars bail,” ruminated Andy, once again under lock and
key. “I can never hope to find anybody to get me out. Too bad—I’m out of
the airship race for good.”



CHAPTER XVII—A TRUE FRIEND


“All right, Andy.”

“Did you send the telegram?”

“Yes, and paid for it, so there would be no delay.”

“You needn’t have done that.”

“I wanted to be sure that it went double rush.”

“All right, I will settle with you when they give me back my money.”

Chase, the lockup-keeper, had promptly and willingly attended to the
errand upon which Andy had sent him.

“See here, Andy,” said Chase, “I understand they had you up in court.”

“Yes,” answered Andy, “they took me up to fix the bail.”

“How much?”

“Two thousand dollars.”

“Why!” exclaimed Chase, his face darkening, “that’s an outrage.”

“I think so, too.”

“There’s something behind it,” muttered the lockup-keeper.

“Yes,” returned Andy. “Mr. Talbot is behind it. He seems to stand in
with the prosecuting attorney. Mr. Jones was quite willing to drop the
case, and said that Mr. Talbot had egged him on.”

Chase did not say any more just then, but as he strolled away, he
muttered to himself in an excited manner. He busied himself about the
place for the next hour. Then he showed Andy his own sleeping quarters,
a quite comfortable, well-ventilated room, and set up an extra cot in
it.

“You and I will have our meal in my room after I feed the other
prisoners,” he said. “I’ll make it as easy for you as I can, Andy.”

“I know you will, Mr. Chase,” responded Andy heartily.

“I’ll do a good deal for you,” declared the faithful old fellow. “What
do I care for this mean old job, anyway? Say,” and he dropped his voice
to a cautious whisper, “suppose there was a way for both of us to get
out of here?”

“What do you mean?” queried Andy quickly.

“Just what I say. Suppose you and I could get to some place a long way
off, where they couldn’t trace us, could you get me another job, do you
think?”

“Don’t you like this one?”

“No, I don’t. I despise it. I have to give Talbot half of my salary for
getting it for me, and I’m tired of the jail.”

“Do you mean to tell me that Talbot takes one half of your salary?”
questioned Andy indignantly.

“I do.”

“Then he’s a meaner man than I thought he was. I can get you a much
better job when I get free,” said Andy, “and I’ll do it, but you mustn’t
think of such nonsense as my escaping.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m a sticker, and never ran away like a sneak in my life,”
declared Andy strenuously. “No, I’m going to face the music like a man.”

Chase was silent for a while. Finally, evidently struggling with some
new disturbing thought, he said:

“Sure you can get me a job, Andy?”

“I am.”

“If I cut loose from here and make Talbot an enemy for life, you’ll see
to it that I get work?”

“As long as you keep sober, Mr. Chase, you can always get a position.
You have made a brave start. Now brace up, think something of yourself,
and earn a comfortable living.”

“I’ll do it!” cried Chase. “I’ll risk everything. Andy, you didn’t
fire that barn. Do you know who did?”

“I have a suspicion,” replied Andy.

“If I guess right who you suspect, will you nod your head?”

“Yes.”

“It was Gus Talbot and Dale Billings.”

Andy nodded his head. He started slightly as he did so, wondering at the
sturdy declaration of Chase. Then he asked:

“Why do you think so, Mr. Chase?”

“I don’t think, I know,” declared the lockup-keeper.

“Did you see them do it?”

“No, I didn’t, but—see here, Andy, I’ve nothing more to say.”

“Why not?”

“I want to find an old tramp named Wandering Dick, before I go any
farther.”

“Does he know?”

“I’ll not say another word except this: they’ll never prove you a
firebug, and old Talbot will be sorry for the day he stirred things up
and started out to persecute an honest boy. Drat the varmint! I’ll be
afraid of him no longer, Andy, you are a good friend.”

“I try to be, Mr. Chase.”

“I’ll prove that I am to you.”

Chase refused to say another word. Andy curiously watched him stump
around attending to his duties. The old fellow would scowl and mutter,
and Andy believed he was mentally discussing Talbot. Then he would
chuckle, and Andy decided he was thinking something pleasant about
himself.

Chase appeared to have entire charge of the cell room. At five o’clock
in the afternoon he let the other prisoners out in the corridor for
exercise, and at six o’clock he gave them their supper in their cells.
Then he and Andy adjourned to the little room beyond the cells and had a
hearty, appetizing meal.

Chase supplied Andy with some newspapers, and later they played a game
of checkers. About nine o’clock a prisoner was brought in and locked up.

At ten o’clock, just as Andy was going to bed, the turnkey’s ponderous
key rattled at the barred door, and again his voice rang out:

“Andrew Nelson!”

“Wonder who wants me now?” said Andy.

“Somebody to see you in the sheriff’s room,” said the turnkey, “follow
me.”

Andy did so. As they entered the apartment indicated, a man with one arm
in a sling advanced and grasped Andy’s hand warmly.

“This is a blazing shame!” he burst out, “but I’ll have you out of here
if it takes all I’ve got and can beg or borrow.”

It was Andy’s employer, John Parks, the Airship King.



CHAPTER XVIII—OUT ON BAIL


Andy’s heart warmed up and he felt that the tide was turning. Parks was
an energetic, impulsive man, and generally put through what he started
at. His hearty greeting showed what he thought of Andy and the charge
against him.

“Is that the sheriff coming?” he demanded impatiently of the officer or
guard at the door of the room.

“He’ll be here soon,” was the reply, “we have sent for him.”

“Come over here, Andy,” directed the aeronaut, leading the way to a
corner of the apartment so the others could not overhear their
conversation. “I want to talk with you. Now then,” he continued, as they
were seated by themselves, “tell me the whole story.”

“I wish I had done it before,” began Andy, and then he recited his
experience with Talbot and the details of the barn burning.

“Guesswork and spitework, eh? The whole business,” flared out Parks.
“They haven’t a foot to stand on in court. I’ll see that you have the
right kind of a lawyer when the case comes to trial. All I am anxious
about is to get you back to camp double quick. You know the race takes
place day after to-morrow.”

“Yes, I know it only too well,” replied Andy; “I’ve worried enough about
it.”

“Here comes my man, I guess,” interrupted Parks, as a portly
consequential-looking person entered the room.

“I wanted to see you about this young man,” explained Parks. “They’ve
shut him up here on a false charge, and I want to get him out. He’s a
trusted employee of mine, and I need him badly in my business.”

“You want to give bail, do you?” inquired the sheriff.

“Every dollar I’ve got, judge,” responded the aeronaut with emphasis,
“so long as he gets free.”

“The bail is two thousand dollars, and I suppose you know the bondsman
must qualify as a real estate owner in the county.”

“I’m not that, judge,” said Parks, “but I’ve got some money.” He pulled
out a roll of bills. “I’ve got nigh onto one thousand dollars personal
property, and I’m going to earn the aviation prize down at Montrose day
after to-morrow.”

“Considerably up in the air, part of your schedule, eh?” remarked the
sheriff, smiling, “I’m afraid we can’t accept you as a bondsman.
Residence here as a real estate owner is absolutely necessary.”

“Why, do you think I would leave you in the lurch or a boy like Andy
sneak away. No sir-ree! You can trust me, Mr. Sheriff.”

“I don’t doubt that, but the law is very strict.”

Parks paced the floor excitedly. He looked disappointed and bothered.

“I’ve got to do something—Andy has just got to be at the aviation meet
day after to-morrow. I’ve got it! Say, suppose I could line up two
thousand dollars through friends, in cash, mind you, couldn’t I hire
some man in Princeville to go on the bond?”

“It is very often done,” acknowledged the sheriff.

“Then I’ll do it. Andy, I’ll be back here to-morrow. Mr. Sheriff, you
can fix the papers for quick action. I’ll raise that two thousand
dollars if I have to mortgage everything I’ve got. I’ve got some friends
and I own a farm out West.”

“Just a word, Mr. Parks,” said Andy.

“What is it, lad?” inquired the aeronaut.

“I wish you would get word to a lawyer at Greenville, a Mr. West, about
something. He expected to see me yesterday, and I was arrested before I
could get to him.”

Andy explained about the advertisement and the lost pocketbook. Mr.
Parks was very much impressed and interested over his story.

“Why, Andy,” he commented vigorously. “There’s something strange about
all this.”

“There is probably something very important for the man who lost the
pocketbook,” said Andy. “I don’t want the lawyer to think I fooled him.”

“Can you find the pocketbook, Andy?”

“Unless it has been removed from the place where it was three weeks ago,
I am sure that I can.”

“H-m, this sets me thinking,” observed Parks. “I’ll see that the lawyer
gets the message, Andy. I’ll be back here to-morrow.”

“Mr. Parks,” said Andy seriously, “I don’t think you had better try to
raise the money. It will be harder than you think, and all this will
take up your time and attention away from the airship race.”

“There won’t be any airship race for me if you are out of it, will
there?” demanded Parks.

“Why not? You can surely find someone to take my place. It’s the _Racing
Star_ that is going to win the race, not the man at the lever. He’s got
to keep his eyes open, but the machine is so far ahead of anything I’ve
seen, that a careful, active pilot can hardly fail to win.”

Parks looked dubious and unconvinced.

“I’m going to get you out of here,” he maintained stubbornly, and,
knowing the determined character of his employer, Andy went back to the
lockup believing that he would keep his word.

“What’s the news, Andy?” inquired Chase eagerly.

“The best in the world, Mr. Chase,” replied Andy brightly.

“Are they going to let you out?”

“I hope so, soon.”

Andy had told Chase something about his circumstances, and now told him
more, mentioning the airship race.

“I say, you shouldn’t miss that, should you, Andy?” excitedly proclaimed
Chase. “I wish I could help you. I can in time. I have a good mind——”

Chase paused mysteriously, and began stumping about in his usual
abstracted, muttering way.

Andy sat down on a bench as there was a movement at the cell-room door.

“Here, give this man shelter for the night and something to eat,”
ordered the turnkey. “Turn him out in the morning.”

“Hello!” spoke Chase, evidently recognizing a regular habitue of the
place, “it’s you again, is it?”

“On my rounds, as usual,” grinned the newcomer, a harmless-looking,
trampish fellow.

“Been in some other lockup, I suppose, since we saw you last?”
insinuated Chase.

“No, Wandering Dick and I have been following a show. You see——”

“Who? Say that again,” interrupted Chase excitedly.

“Wandering Dick.”

“Where is he now?”

“Three days ago I left him about fifty miles south of here.”

“Is he there now?”

“I think so. The show broke up and that threw me out, but Dick talked
about staying around Linterville till he could panhandle it south for
the winter.”

“See here,” said Chase, drawing out his pocketbook. “There’s a
ten-dollar bill,” and he flipped over some bank notes.

“I see there is,” nodded the tramp wonderingly.

“I’ll start you out with a good breakfast and that money in the morning.
I want you to find Dick, bring him here, and I’ll give you each as much
more money when you do.”

The tramp looked puzzled, then suspicious, and then alarmed.

“See here,” he said, “what are you going to work on us, same old
charge?”

“Not at all. I want Dick to answer a half dozen questions, that’s all,
and then you are both! free to go.”

“Say, let me start to-night!” said the tramp eagerly.

“No, it’s too late,” replied Chase. “There’s no train until morning.”

Andy had overheard all this conversation. Wandering Dick was the name he
had heard Chase speak once before, and he had coupled it with the
suggestion that in some way Wandering Dick was concerned in the incident
of Farmer Jones’ burned-down barn.

Andy slept in a good bed and got up early in the morning, believing that
the new day would bring some developments of importance in the
situation.

The tramp was started off by Chase, breakfast was over, and Chase had
been let out by the turnkey into the main room. He came rushing back in
a few minutes carrying an armful of towels for jail use.

“Andy,” he chuckled, throwing his load recklessly on a bench and
slapping his young friend gleefully on the shoulder, “You’re free!”



CHAPTER XIX—A DISAPPOINTMENT


Andy was led into the office of the jail and up to the desk of the
official who had registered his name the day before. This man opened a
drawer and pushed a package before Andy and a receipt.

“See if your money is all right,” he directed, “and sign that receipt.”

“Going to give them back to me, are you?” said Andy brightly, feeling
delighted at recovering his liberty. “They must have found out that I am
innocent.”

“H-m! that’s to be determined later on.”

Andy looked questioningly about the room. Who had set him free? What did
it mean? Just then he caught the sound of voices in another room and the
officer pointed to it.

“Your friend is in there,” he said. “He’s waiting for you.”

Andy felt as if he had wings on his feet. His heart was overflowing with
gladness. He crossed the threshold of the doorway the officer had
indicated, looked in, and then stood stock still, very much surprised.

“Well, young man, we’ve reached you at last?” spoke a hearty voice.

“Why, it’s Mr. Webb!” exclaimed Andy.

He had at once recognized the gentleman whom he had driven over in the
automobile from Princeville to Macon, the day when all his troubles in
life seemed to have begun.

With Mr. Webb was a man who nodded pleasantly but curiously to Andy.
This was Joshua Bird. He was reported to be the richest man in
Princeville, and dealt principally in real estate and had the reputation
of being something of a miser.

Mr. Webb, holding Andy’s hand, turned to Mr. Bird.

“Well, sir, everything is satisfactory?” he asked.

“Entirely so,” answered Bird. “You’re putting a good deal of faith in a
lad you scarcely know, though.”

“I’ll bank on my confidence,” answered Mr. Webb. “Nelson, you remember
me, do you not?”

“Perfectly, sir, but I don’t understand.”

“My being here?” questioned Mr. Webb. “A purely selfish motive is at the
bottom of it, I am free to confess, although I am glad to be of service
to you on general principles. Are you ready to leave here at once?”

“Where for, sir?”

“An automobile dash across the country.”

“And then am I to return here?”

“Not until your trial comes on. Let me explain, so you will understand
the situation. I have gone on your bail bond.”

“I don’t know how to thank you,” said Andy gratefully.

“Your friend, Mr. Parks, found me late last night at Greenville, where
Mr. West and myself were anxiously awaiting you. He explained about your
arrest, and told us the whole story of your affairs. It seems that your
trouble began with the finding of my pocketbook. It was only right,
therefore, that I should stand by you—which I have done, and intend to
keep up, Andy, for you have proven yourself a good, honest boy.”

“Thank you, Mr. Webb,” said our hero with considerable emotion.

“Mr. West, my legal adviser, arranged with Mr. Bird, who has just left
us. The signing of your bail bond is the result. You are free to get to
those anxious friends of yours at the aviation meet, but first I want
you to take a little trip with me.”

“After that old leather pocketbook, I suppose.”

“You’ve guessed it right, Andy.”

“I would like to speak with a good friend of mine in the jail here for a
moment,” said Andy, “and then I will be ready to go with you.”

“All right, Andy.”

Chase had already heard the good news and congratulated Andy, chuckling
and hobbling about at a great rate.

“Remember you’re to look out for a new job for me,” he intimated.

“I’ll attend to that all right, Mr. Chase,” promised Andy. “If things go
as I think they will, I have a friend as well as an employer who will
probably need a man such as you to potter about and look after things.”

“Andy, I’ll potter for keeps if you get me that situation,” declared the
old lockup-keeper earnestly. “You get it fixed for me, and when your
trial comes up, I’ll show you how much I think of you.”

“Things are certainly coming out famously right,” chirped Andy gaily, as
he left Chase.

“Now then, Nelson, take a try at my new machine,” said Mr. Webb, as he
led Andy to the street.

Seth Talbot, one of his own machines waiting at the curb for a fare, was
strolling around inspecting the beautiful touring car which Mr. Webb had
indicated.

“Eh, hey! what’s this?” he blubbered out, as Andy walked smartly to the
machine and leaped into the driver’s seat.

An officer who was aware of the situation nudged Talbot and spoke a few
quick words to him in an undertone. The face of the garage owner turned
white with astonishment and malice. Mr. Webb had noticed him, and asked
Andy:

“Who is that man?”

“Mr. Talbot, my old employer,” responded Andy.

“I don’t like his looks,” spoke Mr. Webb simply. “Now then, Nelson, of
course you know where I want to go.”

“After the leather pocketbook—yes, sir.”

“I hope you can find it.”

“I feel sure we shall, sir. We will have to take some roundabout roads
to get to the farm I told Mr. West about.”

“This is a very important matter to me,” explained Mr. Webb. “I may as
well tell you, Nelson, that the fortune and happiness of two orphan
children, distant relatives of mine, depend on the finding of that old
pocketbook.”

“I am very much interested, Mr. Webb,” said Andy.

“You did not notice perhaps, but glued down in the big part of that
pocketbook is a thin compartment. Secreted in that is an old time-worn
sheet of paper that I spent thousands of dollars and a year’s time in
locating and getting into my possession. I was on my way to my lawyer
with it, and had placed two hundred dollars in the pocketbook for costs
in the law suit, when I lost the pocketbook, as you know.”

“I never dreamed there was any value in the old pocketbook,” said Andy.
“I knew it was in my old clothes which I threw away at a farm near Wade,
I told you about. I remember perfectly well tossing them up on an old
shelf. Unless they have been disturbed, we will find the clothes and the
pocketbook. It was a regular old rubbish pile where I tossed them, and
out of anybody’s way.”

“I shall feel immensely relieved and glad when I find that document,”
declared Mr. Webb, with a sigh of anxiety.

John Parks was responsible for bringing the word to Mr. West that had
sent Mr. Webb to Princeville. The aeronaut had told the lawyer
considerable about Andy and the approaching airship race, and as they
rolled along Mr. Webb showed a great deal of interest in Andy’s aviation
ambitions and asked a great many questions.

“I shall want to see you again as soon as I get that document in the
pocketbook to the lawyers,” said the gentleman. “The airship race is
to-morrow?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I will keep track of you through Mr. Parks, and probably meet you day
after to-morrow. I hope you win the race, Nelson, and get the prize. You
deserve it, my boy. If you fail, do not get discouraged. You have some
good friends, and I am one of them.”

“You have shown that,” said Andy with feeling. “I wouldn’t have missed
the race for a good deal.”

Andy entertained his companion considerably by a recital of his
adventures three weeks previously when he had helped the goose farmer
get his product to market.

“Just yonder is where I met him first,” explained Andy, as they passed
over a bridge crossing the river. “It’s a straight road to the Collins
farm now, but not very even.”

“I hope we find things as you expect,” said Mr. Webb.

“I think we will,” answered Andy cheerfully.

It was about an hour later when they rounded a curve in a beautiful
country road.

“Just beyond that grove of trees,” said Andy, “and we come in full view
of the Collins farmhouse. Now we can see it—Why,
I—don’t—understand—this.”

Andy slowed down in speech, with a series of wondering gasps, as he
likewise slowed down the machine.

“Why, what’s the matter, Nelson?” queried Mr. Webb.

“Don’t you see?” began Andy. “No, you don’t see, and that’s just it.
There’s something wrong. The farmhouse did stand right over where that
gravelled road runs into the farm, and now——”

“Nelson,” interrupted Mr. Webb almost sharply, “there has been a fire
here.”

Andy stared dubiously, but in great concern. There could be no doubt of
it, this was the site of the Collins’ farm. There were the white-washed
posts where the farm road began, the horse block where he bade the goose
farmer good-by, but the farmhouse itself had disappeared.



CHAPTER XX—A NEW CAPTIVITY


“Nelson, could you possibly be mistaken?”

“No, sir, positively not.”

Andy had come to a dead stop with the automobile. He stared blankly at
the prospect before them. The site of the Collins farmhouse was a flat
stretch of waste and ruin. Grass, weeds, trees, fences showed the
ravages of a great fire.

Mr. Webb looked dreadfully disappointed. His face had become almost
pale. Andy shared his disquietude, but he could simply say:

“I am very sorry.”

“You did all you could, Nelson,” responded his companion. “Here comes
some one. We will question him a little.”

A farm laborer with a hoe across his shoulder sauntered down the road.
Andy hailed him. As he came nearer to them Mr. Webb said:

“My man, what has been happening around here?”

“Don’t you see?” queried the man, with a comprehensive wave of his hand
across the bleak ruins. “Fire.”

“This is the Collins farm, isn’t it?”

“It was,” answered the man. “The fire took them in the night a week
ago.”

“And burned everything about the place?”

“Down to the pig styes.”

“Where are the Collins people?”

“Gone over into Bowen County until they can arrange to build again.”

“Start up, Nelson,” ordered Mr. Webb. “It’s a waste of time to loiter
around here.”

Mr. Webb felt cruelly disappointed. Andy saw this and was sorry for him.
He glanced at the spot where he remembered the old shed to have stood.
Even the tree that had sheltered it had burned to a crisp.

“Where am I to go?” inquired Andy.

“You had better strike for Rushville,” replied Mr. Webb. “From what I
remember, you can get a train to Montrose earlier than on the Central.”

“I am to go on to John Parks?”

“That’s the programme,” said Mr. Webb, trying to appear cheerful; “why
not?”

Andy reflected seriously for a moment or two. Finally he spoke:

“Mr. Webb,” he said; “I hardly feel right to leave you on my bond for
that big amount. Something might happen so that I could not appear for
trial—trickery, or a dozen things.”

“And because you have not succeeded in recovering that pocketbook, you
suppose I’m going to desert you, Nelson?” inquired the gentleman.

“You are not the man to do a single mean thing,” replied Andy, “but,
with all your troubles, and me being a stranger——”

“Drop it, Nelson. You have tried to be the best friend in the world to
me, and I’d go on your bond for double the amount I have. You are to go
straight on to Montrose, win that airship race, and when you have got
that off your mind we will have a talk together.”

“You are a good, kind man,” said Andy, with fervor, “and I’d walk
barefooted on hot coals to get you back that pocketbook.”

When they reached Rushville, Mr. Webb took charge of the automobile. He
made many encouraging references to the coming airship race, and when he
left Andy at the railroad station shook his hand in a friendly way.

Andy made a disappointing discovery as soon as he consulted the train
schedules. A change in the service of the road had been made only that
week, and there was no train south until seven o’clock. It was now
three, and he would have to wait four hours.

“I won’t be able to get home until after dark,” reflected the lad. “I
hoped to have an hour or two of daylight for practice, but this knocks
my plans awry. Well, as it is, this is a good deal better than missing
the race altogether.”

It was quite dark when the train reached the limits of Montrose. It
stopped at a crossing, and Andy got off and made a short cut for the
Parks camp.

His course led him past the large aviation field. Andy was anxious to
report to Mr. Parks as soon as possible, but unusual light and animation
about the big enclosure aroused his curiosity and interest, and he
passed the gate and strolled by the various aerodromes.

Everything was “the race!” Groups were discussing it, contestants were
oiling up their machines and exploiting the merits of the others. An
hour passed by before Andy realized it. He came to halt in front of the
last tent in the row, turned to retrace his steps, and then suddenly
halted.

“I’d like to know what the Duske crowd is about,” he reflected, glancing
towards the isolated camp which he had surreptitiously visited only a
few nights previous. “Mr. Parks might be glad to know, too. I’ll do a
little skirmishing and find out what I can.”

Andy crossed a dark space. Lights were moving about the Duske camp, and
these served as a guide. He neared the fence surrounding the camp, got
over it, and cautiously approached the large tent which held the airship
he had inspected on his first stealthy visit to the place.

Suddenly Andy tripped and fell. His foot had caught in a wire stretched
taut under the grass. As he went headlong across the grass, a bell began
to jingle, and he realized that the wire was one of many probably set to
trap intruders. At all events, before he could get to his feet two men
ran out of the tent.

One of these was Duske. The other was his companion of the evening when
Andy had previously visited the place. They pounced on him promptly.

“Another spy,” spoke Duske, dragging the captive toward the tent.

“They’re getting thick,” observed his companion. “Those fellows at the
big camp are mighty curious to pry into the secrets of our craft here.
Hello! why, Duske, this is the same fellow we caught snooping around
here three nights since.”

“Eh? Oh, it’s you again, is it?”

They had come inside the tent. The light burning there revealed Andy
fully. Without letting go of him Duske scowlingly surveyed his captive.

“Say, Duske,” spoke the other man quickly, “it’s Parks’ boy, and he’s
the one who won the pony prize.”

“Was that you?” demanded Duske; “are you Andy Nelson?”

“Suppose so?” queried Andy.

“Then you’re the fellow who is going to take Parks’ place in the race
to-morrow?”

“I guess that is right,” affirmed Andy.

“No,” cried Duske, showing his teeth, and looking fierce and malicious,
“it’s wrong, dead wrong, as you’re going to find out. Fetch me some
rope.”

“Hold on,” objected Andy, “you aren’t going to tie me up?”

He put up a manful struggle and very nearly got away. The two powerful
men were more than his equal, however, and in a very few minutes Andy
found himself tied hand and foot.

Duske and his companion carried him bodily along through the tent, past
the flying machine, and threw him onto a mattress lying on the ground in
a small compartment partitioned off with canvas. Duske tested the ropes
that bound Andy, gave them another twist, and went out into the main
tent.

“This looks like luck,” observed the companion of Duske.

“Yes, if we’ve got the bearings right,” replied the other, “Are you sure
he was scheduled to take Parks’ place in the race?”

“Of course I am. Hasn’t Tyrrell told us already about his getting into
trouble somewhere, and couldn’t be here to make the race? Hasn’t Parks
hired Tyrrell in his place?”

“Then how comes the boy to be here? I don’t like the looks of things at
all.”

“Tyrrell will be here before long. He can post us if there is any break
in our arrangements.”

The two men passed out of hearing. Andy made one or two efforts to
loosen his bonds, found them unusually secure, and gave up the
experiment. What his captors had said startled and disturbed him
considerably.

“Mr. Parks doesn’t expect me to show up in time to make the race, and
this man they talked about, Tyrrell, is going to take my place,”
reflected Andy. “He is a friend of the people here, and that certainly
means harm for Mr. Parks.”

Andy worried himself a good deal during the next hour, imagining all
kinds of plots on the part of Duske and his friends to prevent the
_Racing Star_ from winning the prize.

Finally Andy heard voices in the large tent. His name was spoken, and he
listened intently to catch what was said.

“If that’s so, and it’s really Andy Nelson,” sounded a new voice, “it’s
funny, for up to this morning he was in jail at Princeville.”

“Then he’s escaped, or got free somehow,” answered Duske. “He’s that boy
of Parks’ who was the winner in the dash for the pony prize.”

“If he is,” came the reply, “you want to hold him a close prisoner till
the big race is over.”



CHAPTER XXI—A FRIEND IN NEED


The voices that Andy heard died away in the distance. In about ten
minutes, however, they came back again within his range of hearing. The
man he believed to be Tyrrell, who in some way had induced Mr. Parks to
accept him as a substitute for himself in the aviation race, was
speaking to his companion, who was Duske.

“That’s the programme, is it?” he was asking.

“To a T.”

“You will look out for the Nelson boy.”

“Don’t fret on that score. We’ll cage him safe and sound until the race
is over.”

“You think I had better use the bottle?”

“Yes, here it is. Stow it anywhere in your clothes.”

“Isn’t there some easier way? What’s the use of fire? It may strike
investigators as suspicious.”

“Not at all. They tanked you too full, a spark did the mischief, see?
You know enough to descend in among some trees?”

“Of course.”

“Let the flame singe your clothing, tell some sensational story of a
hairbreadth escape, and you’ll be quite a hero.”

“You think with the _Racing Star_ out of the way that your machine is
bound to win, do you?”

“I know it,” affirmed Duske confidently. “Those other aeroplanes are
mere botches. They will do as playthings, but as to distance, they’re
not in it with the _Moon Bird_.”

“All right, I’ll follow instructions. Keep that boy safe. I’d better go.
It would be all up with our scheme if Parks should suspect I was your
friend.”

Andy fairly writhed where he lay. The plot of the villains was now
perfectly clear to him. The man Tyrrell had wormed himself into the
confidence of Mr. Parks, who little suspected that he was a confederate
of Duske. Tyrrell was to make the start with the _Racing Star_, pretend
that an accident had happened, and burn up the airship.

“What shall I do—what can I do?” breathed Andy. “They don’t intend to
let me go until after the race is over to-morrow.”

In about an hour Duske and an old man who seemed to be the cook of the
camp came to where Andy lay. Duske released one hand of the captive. The
anxious prisoner did not feel much like eating, but he realized that he
must keep up his strength. He ate some bread and meat which the cook
brought, and drank some water.

Duske tied him up again, tighter than ever. Then he spoke to the cook:

“You get your armchair right outside the canvas flap here, Dobbins.”

“All right, Mr. Duske,” replied the man.

“Every fifteen minutes, right through till morning, you are to look in
on that boy. See that he is comfortable, but particularly that he is
safe.”

“I’ll attend to it.”

“If you let him get away, you’re out of a job, remember.”

The cook followed out the programme directed by Duske to the minutest
detail. Andy had no opportunity to free himself—he was watched so
closely. He decided that the effort would be futile. Until midnight he
lay wide awake, nervous and worried. Then he made up his mind that it
did no good to fret, and got some sleep.

He was given his breakfast about six o’clock in the morning. Then he was
tied up again and left to himself. He lay on the mattress so that when
the wind blew the canvas lifted and he could look out. He was faced away
from the direction of the aviation field, however, and twenty feet away
the fence stared him blankly in the face.

From sounds near by and in the distance during the next two hours, Andy
could figure out just what was going on about him. The _Moon Bird_ was
carried from its aerodrome and taken to the aviation field. The old cook
seemed to be left in possession of the camp. He looked in on Andy every
so often. The rest of the time he was busy in the larger tent or outside
of it with his cooking utensils.

Poor Andy was in sore straits of despair. He had a vivid imagination,
and could fancy all that was shut out from his view by captivity. He
heard a distant town bell strike nine o’clock.

“In an hour the airships will be off,” soliloquized the captive
mournfully, “and I won’t be there.”

Andy pictured in his mind all that was going on at the aviation field.
He could fancy the airships ranging in place for the start. He could
imagine the animation and excitement permeating the groups of
spectators. He shut his eyes and tried to forget it all, so keen was his
disappointment.

He heard the band strike up a gay tune. Then a gun was fired. Andy
almost shed tears. In twenty minutes the starting signal was due.

“They’ll have a head wind,” he ruminated, as the breeze lifted the
canvas at the side of the mattress upon which he lay. “It will be light,
though, and won’t hinder much;” and then he thrilled, as he fancied
himself seated in the operator’s stand of the splendid _Racing Star_,
awaiting the final word, “Go!”

Andy stared blankly at the fence of the enclosure of the Duske camp. A
section of it had been broken down, and the gate left open in removing
the airship. Of a sudden he stared eagerly. Some one had come into the
enclosure.

The intruder was evidently some casual sight-seer, a boy. His hands were
in his pockets, and he strolled about as if curiously inspecting
everything that came under his notice. He cast a careless glance at the
tent, and was proceeding on his way towards the main aviation field,
when Andy gave a great start.

“Silas—Silas Pierce!” he shouted, ignoring discovery by the cook.

Andy’s heart was thumping like a trip-hammer. It seemed as if on the
verge of the blackest despair a bright star of hope had risen on the
horizon. He had recognized the intruder with surprise, but with gladness
as well.

It was his companion of the goose trip, the son of Mr. Pierce—the farmer
Silas—whom Andy had last seen at the Collins place, the farm he had
visited the day previous. Silas wore a brand-new suit of clothes. He
suggested the typical country boy, with some loose cash in his pocket,
enjoying a brief holiday to the utmost.

“Hey!” exclaimed Silas, with a startled jump, his eyes goggling all
about, and unable to trace the source of the challenge.

Andy uttered a groan. At the moment the breeze let down, and the canvas
dropped, shutting him in and Silas out. Then a puff of wind came and
lifted the flap again.

“Here, here, Silas!” called out Andy in tones of strained suspense.
“Quick—help!”

“I vum!” gasped the farmer boy, staring blankly at what he saw of Andy.
“Who is it? And—I say, you’re dad’s great friend, the Nelson boy!”

Silas had advanced, and took in the situation, and recognized Andy
slowly.

“Lift up the canvas; come in here,” directed Andy in a more cautious
tone of voice. “You remember me, don’t you?”

“Guess I do; but what in the world of wonder is the matter with you?”

“Don’t talk so loud,” pleaded Andy anxiously, fearing the arrival of the
cook at any moment. “Some bad men have tied me up. Have you got a
knife?”

“Yes; and a brand-new one. Won it in a funny game where you throw rings.
See there,” and with great pride Silas produced and opened a
gaudily-handled jack-knife.

“Oh, thank you, Silas; I’ll never forget this.”

“Hold on! Say! Thunder! Is he crazy? Stop! Stop!”

In profound excitement, Silas Pierce regarded Andy. The minute he had
cut the bonds of the young aviator, Andy had bounded to his feet as if
set on springs. Afar from the aviation field there boomed out the
second, the get-ready gun.

“Ten minutes!” gasped Andy, on fire with resolve. “I’ve got to make it.”

He swept aside the canvas, headed in the direction of the main camp. Hot
on his heels came his amazed rescuer, now a wondering pursuer. Andy ran
at the fence, gave a spring, and cleared its top in a graceful leap.
Silas, more clumsy, ran at two loose boards, and by sheer force of his
might and strength, sent them out of place and put after Andy.

“Nelson!” he bawled. “What’s the matter? Nobody’s following you.
Crickey, but you’re a sprinter!”

“I’ll see you later—Parks’ camp—in a hurry.”

In a hurry, indeed, was Andy. He was running against time. As a turn
past some tents brought him in full sight of the open field, he was a
lone heroic figure—heart, brain and body strained to reach the dainty,
natty _Racing Star_, just being wheeled in place for flight.

There were seven airships entered for the race. These were now stationed
a distance of several hundred yards apart, ready to start. The
spectators were held back from the dead line by ropes stretched from
post to post, but Andy was coming across the field from its inside edge.
Silas Pierce was putting after him, puzzled and excited, breathless, and
far to the rear. Their unconventional arrival attracted no attention,
for those in charge of the airships were engrossed in seeing that
everything was right for the start.

The _Racing Star_ was being pushed forward to its starting position. All
the others were in place. In a swift glance, Andy made out the _Moon
Bird_, and recognized Duske seated amidships.

Near the _Racing Star_ was Mr. Parks, directing affairs, and Scipio was
standing near by. At one side were Mr. Morse and Tsilsuma, deeply
interested in the manoeuvres going on.

“It’s Tyrrell!” panted Andy, and he redoubled his speed as he made out
the treacherous ally of Duske. Tyrrell was arrayed in leather jacket and
gloves, keeping pace with the _Racing Star_ as it moved along. As the
airship came to a halt on the starting line, Andy saw him move forward
to take his seat amidships.

It was then that Andy massed all his strength of being, accompanied by
animated gesticulations, as he shouted out:

“Stop that man!”



CHAPTER XXII—“GO!”


“Andy!” shouted John Parks in a transport of amazement.

“It’s me,” panted Andy, running up to his employer and pointing at
Tyrrell. “Mr. Parks, stop that man. He’s a traitor; he’s a villain!”

Tyrrell had heard and seen Andy. He gave a great start. Then he made a
move as if to hasten aboard the airship and get out of his way. Mr.
Morse and the Japanese hastened forward. The men guiding the aeroplane
stared hard at the newcomer.

“Andy, what do you mean?” demanded Mr. Parks, lost in wonderment.

“Just what I say. Don’t let him get aboard.”

“Hold on, Tyrrell,” ordered the aeronaut.

“We’ll lose the start,” spoke Tyrrell hurriedly.

“Don’t you get aboard.”

“No, sah; yo’ just obey Mistah Parks, suh,” interposed Scipio, laying a
great hindering hand on the arm of Tyrrell.

“I have been a prisoner in the Duske camp since yesterday,” explained
Andy, catching his breath. “This man Tyrrell came there last night. He
is in the employ of Duske.”

“What!” shouted Parks, his face growing dark.

“It’s true, Mr. Parks,” asseverated Andy. “They are in a plot to burn
the _Racing Star_ and have you lose the prize.”

“Do you hear what this boy says?” thundered the aeronaut, moving down on
Tyrrell with threatening mien.

“It’s—it’s not true,” declared Tyrrell, but turning pale, shrinking
back, and looking about him for a chance to run.

“If you don’t believe me,” cried Andy, “search him.”

Scipio held Tyrrell’s arm in a viselike clasp. Parks ran his hand over
his clothing. He drew from his pocket a parcel done up in a
handkerchief. Mr. Morse took it, opened it, and revealed a bottle filled
with some substance like kerosene, a small box of matches and some lint.
Quick as a flash the hand of the aeronaut shot out for the throat of
Tyrrell.

“You treacherous scoundrel!” he shouted.

Boom!

“The third gun! They’re off, Mr. Parks,” cried Andy. “Oh, don’t let the
_Racing Star_ miss it.”

“What can I do?”

“Send me. Men, get ready. Mr. Parks, I’ll win this race!”

Andy was in no trim physically or in attire to attempt the race. At a
glance the aeronaut saw this. But our hero was irresistible. He ran
towards the machine, and with nimble movements he glided among the
planes and reached the operator’s seat. Already the other airships were
sailing skywards.

“Go!” shouted Andy.

Upon the operator’s seat lay the skull cap and goggles, ready for
Tyrrell, and Andy hastily donned them. He heard the voice of Parks, now
as excited as himself, giving orders, a tacit consent to make the start.

There was a run of scarcely a hundred feet along the grass. Andy placed
a firm hand on the wheel. Then came a series of curves and sweeping
arcs, which kept the crowd of spectators turning first one way and then
the other in entranced silence.

The young aviator followed the popping of the motors of the contestant
machines. One was fast becoming a mere speck in the sky.

“The _Moon Bird_, Duske’s machine,” murmured Andy.

It seemed poised in the air without motion, so direct was its course, so
true its mechanism. Two of the other airships had already descended, one
of them wrecked and out of the race. The forty-foot mechanical bird, the
Duske machine, however, had made the lead and kept it.

The climax came in Andy’s preliminary ascent. Now the _Racing Star_,
light and dainty as a lark, mounted with amazing speed. A glance at
three of the airships convinced Andy that they were too faulty to make a
record. The _Moon Bird_, however, was a marvel. From what he had heard
Mr. Parks say, Duske had been an expert balloonist, and he now showed
amazing ability in the aviation line. He seemed to be putting the stolen
airship idea to marked advantage.

Andy struck a level about fifteen hundred feet in the air. There was a
head wind, but it was not strong. Andy put on fine speed gradually. The
_Racing Star_ passed two of the contestants, and, fully in action, he
drove keen on the trail of the _Moon Bird_.

The train that acted as a pilot with an American flag on its last car,
Andy kept in view as a guide. When they came to Lake Clear, the _Moon
Bird_ did not follow the rounding land course, nor did Andy. Lake Clear
was a shallow body of water, but of considerable extent, and dotted here
and there with little islands.

Suddenly the _Moon Bird_, a machine of good utility, but, as Andy knew,
of little lasting power, made a decided spurt, passed the _Racing Star_,
and at a distance of half a mile got fairly abreast of the lake. It was
here that Duske met his Waterloo. Hitherto he had maintained practically
a steady course. More than once Andy had got near enough to this rival
to hear the loud gasping of the tube exhausts drown out the sharp
chug-chug of the motor. Suddenly Duske made a sharp turn.

An appalling climax followed. In consternation and suspense Andy watched
aerial evolutions that fairly dizzied him.

“He is lost!” breathed Andy, a-thrill.

In an instant he recalled what Mr. Morse had told him of the unfinished
model that Duske and his crowd had stolen from him. The inventor had
explained to Andy that while the suction principle involved in the
rudder construction was unique and bound to increase speed, there should
have been added automatic caps to close the rear ends of the suction
tubes where a curve was attempted.

Of this Duske evidently knew nothing. The moment he turned the machine,
however, there was a whirl. The aeroplane described a dive, then a
somersault. Its lateral planes collapsed, and, tipping from side to
side, it began to descend with frightful velocity.

Once it half righted, balanced, went over again, and, fifty feet from
the ground, shot clear of a little islet, and went down in the water of
the lake, a wreck, first spilling Duske out.

“He is killed or stunned!” exclaimed Andy.

The boy aviator saw the other airships forging ahead, indifferent to the
accident. Minutes counted in the sixty-mile race to Springfield and back
to the starting point, but Andy was humane. He saw clearly that, if
alive, the half-submerged Duske would be suffocated in a few minutes’
time.

“I can’t leave him to die,” murmured Andy, and sent the _Racing Star_ on
a sharp slant, landing on the island.

Andy was soon out of the airship. He waded to the spot where Duske lay,
and dragged him bodily up on dry land. As he turned him on his face,
Andy knew from its purple hue, the lifeless limbs and choked gasps of
the man, that another minute in the water would have been his last.

A boat put out from the mainland where a crowd of spectators was
watching the race. Four men jumped out as the island was reached.

“Take care of this man,” ordered Andy.

“You’re a pretty fair fellow to risk losing the race to save a
competitor,” spoke one of the men heartily.

He and his companions followed Andy’s instructions the best they could
in starting the _Racing Star_, and Andy shot skywards again, making up
for lost time.



CHAPTER XXIII—THE GREAT RACE


“Hurrah!”

“Why, it’s only a boy!”

“Parks’ man—get your rest, lad, while we see to things.”

Andy found himself in a whirl of motion and excitement. When he had left
the island where he had sacrificed his time and risked his chances of
winning the race, he had discovered that he was fourth on the programme.
The _Flash_ was becoming a distant speck, and the two other contesting
biplanes were lagging after the leader.

Andy now set a pace to force the _Racing Star_ to do its utmost. His
good knowledge of detail as to the machinery and his masterly
manipulation of the same soon brought results. The _Racing Star_ easily
passed two of the airships ahead. Then Andy ran neck-and-neck with the
pilot train for several miles.

The _Flash_, however, kept up admirable speed, but finally a wing broke
or oil ran out at Wayne, and the operator descended to a relief station.

Now was Andy’s chance, and he made the most of it. With those
inspiriting shouts of “Hurrah! Why, it’s only a boy!” and the
announcement from the relay posted at Springfield by Parks that they
were on hand to tank up the _Racing Star_ and adjust the machinery, Andy
landed at the outskirts of the city, just half the race distance
covered.

It made him quite dizzy-headed to sail down along a vast sea of human
beings, wild with enthusiasm at greeting the leader so far in the race.

Two men took entire charge of the _Racing Star_, with quick movements,
tanking, oiling the cylinders, testing every part of it. A third man
brought Andy a tray containing a cup of steaming coffee, one of beef
tea, and some crackers.

“There she comes!”

“Hurrah No. 2!”

“The _Flash_!”

“And there she goes!”

“All aboard, Parks,” sang out the leader of the relay gang, and with a
glide and a whiz the _Racing Star_ was once more up in the air.

Again the _Flash_ was in the lead. Having been supplied with fuel and
oil at its recent stop, the operator did not make any halt at the
turning post. Andy felt fresh and ambitious, and the _Racing Star_
responded loyally to every touch of wheel and lever.

Fifty feet from the ground a wheel dropped from place, but Andy paid no
attention to this. The train did not act as pilot on the return trip.
Instead, at intervals of five miles to indicate stations, smudges were
being sent aloft. Andy made a direct run for the first one of these,
mapping out his route from those dimly visible on the course ahead.

At Dover Andy passed the _Flash_. For the next five miles they kept
pretty well abreast.

The last smudge was about eight miles from Montrose. Andy flew past it
making a circular turn as he plainly made out the aviation field in the
distance. His competitor made a short cut, lost on a turn to strike the
straight course and Andy overtook him.

Now it was that Andy tensioned up the splendid machine to its highest
power. The white expanse of canvas and wood shivered and trembled under
an unusual strain.

“In the lead!” cried Andy in delight, and his eyes sparkled through the
goggles as he took a swift backward glance. The _Flash_ was bungling.
Its progress was a wobble and its operator was at fault in striking an
even balance.

The speed of the _Racing Star_ had now been increased to its utmost.

“Five minutes more, six at the most, will decide the race,” breathed
Andy. “I can’t lose now.”

The _Racing Star_ was no longer a bird afloat, but an arrow. Giving to
the machine a certain slant, calculating to a foot how and where he
would land, Andy saw nothing, thought of nothing, but the home post.

He was conscious of a frightful bolt downwards that fairly took his
breath away. There was a blur of flying fences, buildings, tents, a
green expanse, a sea of human faces, a roar as a great shout went up,
and the _Racing Star_ met the ground on a bounce, and Andy Nelson was
the winner of the great race.

Our hero did not step from the airship as eager, willing hands eased the
_Racing Star_ down to a stop. Cheering, excited men fairly pulled him
over the drooping planes. Some one hugged him with a ringing yell of
delight, and John Parks’ voice sounded in his ears.

“Oh, you famous boy—Andy, my lad, it’s the proudest moment of my life!”

Mr. Morse caught Andy’s hand, his serious face flushed with pride.

“The _Racing Star_ did it,” said Andy.

“Yo’ did it, chile, and yo’ did it brown,” chimed in Scipio, his mouth
expanded in joyous delight from ear to ear.

John Parks never let go of Andy’s arm as they made their way through the
crowds to the main aerodrome stand. The official starter had unscrewed
the speedometer and elevation gauge. He ran before them to the stand.
Someone quickly chalked a legend on the big, bare blackboard. It ran:

    Start of flight—10:04.
    Finish—11:39.
    Distance traveled—60 miles.
    Maximum height—1,200 feet.
    Wind velocity—12 miles from the west.
    Winner—Racing Star.
    Operator—Andy Nelson.

Somehow the boy aviator thrilled as he read his name at the bottom of
the little legend.

“It’s like a dream, Mr. Parks—just like a dream,” and his voice was
faint and dreamy in itself.

“Don’t collapse, lad,” directed the aeronaut anxiously—“the best is to
come.”

“It’s only the reaction,” said Andy. “To think I did it—me, only Andy!”

“There isn’t another Andy like you in the whole world,” enthusiastically
declared Parks. “Yes, sir,” as a man waved to him from the table on the
grand stand.

“Here’s the check, Parks,” notified the judge.

“Well, we’ve won it, haven’t we?” chuckled the aeronaut.

“You have, and it’s ready for you. A pretty piece of paper, hey—five
thousand dollars. Make it out to you?”

“I’ll take it in two checks,” answered Parks.

“Mr. Parks——” began Andy.

“There’s only one check for the whole amount,” replied the judge, “and
only the name left to be filled in.”

“Oh, that’s the way of it, eh?” said the aeronaut. “All right, fill it
in John Parks and Andy Nelson. I reckon, Andy, I can’t get that
twenty-five hundred dollars away from you without your signature.”

He poked Andy in the ribs in jolly fun. He was all smiles and laughter
as he shouted an order to Scipio to hurry home and get up the best
celebration dinner he knew how. Then, Andy following him, he stepped
forward to take the arm of Mr. Morse, and thus, the Japanese walking
with Andy and congratulating him on his great feat, they crossed the
field away from the crowds.

Some one broke over the dead line ropes and made a dash after them,
yelling loudly:

“Andy, oh, Andy Nelson!”

“Hold on there!” ordered an officer, trying to head off the trespasser.

“Silas Pierce!” exclaimed Andy.

“He goes with us, officer,” called out Parks. “You bet you go with us,
you grand old hero!” he cried, giving the farmer boy a joyful, friendly
slap on the shoulder.

“Yes, indeed,” smiled Andy, catching the arm of Silas and hugging it
quite, “if it hadn’t been for you, there would have been no race.”

“Andy,” gasped Silas, “I can hardly believe it. Why you’re famous.”

“Am I?” smiled Andy.

“And rich.”

“Rich in good friends, anyway,” replied Andy.

“I hung around. When I saw you coming in on the lead, I nearly fell flat
I was so excited,” declared Silas.

“I want a chance for a little talk with you, Silas,” said Andy. “I want
to show you how much I appreciate what you have done for me.”

The merry, happy coterie crossed the field, and coming out at a gate
made a short cut for the Parks camp. They had just neared it, when among
the crowd thronging about the place, Andy made out a boy edging towards
him.

He crowded past several persons and came up to Andy’s side and caught
his sleeve.

“Andy,” he said in a bold but sheepish way, “you know me, don’t you?”

“Why, yes, I know you,” answered Andy.

He stared in mingled surprise, perplexity and distrust at the speaker.

It was Dale Billings. Hungry-faced, unkempt looking, as if he had not
slept for a week, and then in a hay mow or a freight car. Andy’s
old-time enemy confronted him in the hour of his great triumph.



CHAPTER XXIV—A HOPEFUL CLEW


“Did you want to see me, Dale,” inquired Andy.

“Yes, I do, and bad,” responded Dale Billings. “See here, you’ve won a
big race. You’re rich. If it hadn’t been for me and Gus Talbot, you
wouldn’t be.”

“How is that?” inquired Andy.

“We figured along the line, didn’t we? If I’d gone to work for old
Talbot when I had a chance, you’d have been out and wouldn’t have
learned about automobiles and machinery and such, and couldn’t have run
an airship and won the race.”

This was queer reasoning. Andy had to smile. He couldn’t feel any way
but pleasant and happy with the great airship prize his, however, and he
said:

“Well, let that go. What are you driving at, Dale?”

“We’re in hard luck, me and Gus.”

“You look it,” said Andy.

“We haven’t got a cent, we don’t dare to go back home. Gus is sick in an
old shed down the tracks, and we haven’t had a mouthful to eat since
yesterday morning. There’s no friends here we know but you. I’m just
desperate. Loan me two dollars, Andy.”

“Why certainly,” answered Andy.

“I mean five—yes, if you’ll loan us ten dollars till we get work and on
our feet, we’ll pay it back.”

“All right,” agreed Andy, “only you’ll have to come up to our camp for
it. You know where it is—Parks’ camp.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I want to have a talk with you. You can depend on the money, Dale.”

A thought ran through the mind of the young aviator that by kindness he
might make some impression on the two outcasts. As he summed up the
meanness and audacity of his recent capture, however, Andy secretly
confessed that it would be a hard undertaking.

First thing of all, our hero took a bath and got himself in better shape
generally. Mr. Parks and a group of his friends occupied the main
sitting room. Andy had left Dale in one of the smaller apartments of the
old shack. As he went thither he passed Scipio, arrayed in white apron
and natty cap and warbling a plantation ditty as he brandished knife and
carver gaily.

“Getting sech a dinnah, Andy, chile,” he chuckled. “Ah give you a feast
you nebber forgit.”

“Now then, Silas,” said Andy, entering the room where he had left the
farmer boy, “I’ve got time to shake your hand good and hearty, and glad
to do it.”

“And I’m glad you’re not too proud to do it,” replied Silas.

“You’ve done a big thing for me, Silas,” went on Andy.

“Think so?”

“Where would the race be if you had not come along in the nick of time
and set me free?”

“I was mightily surprised to see you in that queer fix,” said Silas,
“and I didn’t know what had happened when you started on a rush for the
airship.”

“Well, you understand now,” said Andy. “Now then, Silas, what can I do
for you?”

“Do, how?”

“I want to acknowledge your usefulness in some way. There must be
something you want or need.”

“You mean you’d like to give me some little memento for trying to help
you along?”

“That’s it.”

“But I’m glad to do it for nothing.”

“Never mind. Come, speak out, Silas. A bicycle, a nice new watch and
chain?”

“Why, see here,” said Silas, after a moment’s deep thought, “if it’s the
same to you, I’d like ten dollars and seventeen cents.”

Andy smiled. “For something special?” he inquired.

“Why, yes. You see I want to go to school this winter and learn
shorthand. The term is eighteen dollars, and I’ve only saved up seven
dollars and eighty-three cents.”

“I’ll do better than that for you, Silas,” said Andy, “and I’m glad to
find you so ambitious. How is your father?”

“All right, I guess, though I haven’t seen him for nigh onto a month.”

“Why, how’s that?”

“I’ve been staying at the Collins farm.”

“You have?” exclaimed Andy, at once interested.

“Yes. Just came up from there yesterday. There hasn’t been much doing,
and won’t be until the folks get their new house built. I was on their
hands, though, and I’m staying around visiting relatives.”

“How do you mean you was on their hands, Silas?” inquired Andy.

“Why, dad got talking with Mr. Collins after we’d got rid of the geese.
There’s a good academy at Wade, and Mr. Collins was going into sheep in
a big way. He offered me quite a good job and the chance to go to school
in the winter, and I took it.”

“But Mr. Collins’ house burned down,” said Andy.

“What, did you hear of that?” asked Silas in surprise.

“Yes,” nodded Andy.

“Well, that put things in bad shape for the family, but they are coming
back soon, and in the meantime I tend to the sheep in the pasture lot.
Lucky they had moved the old shed over there for storm shelter before
the house and barns burned down.”

“What shed?” asked Andy, with a quick start.

“The one that stood under the old elm tree. Don’t you remember? Why, it
was the shed you changed your clothes in.”

“What!” shouted Andy, jumping to his feet in intense excitement; “that
shed wasn’t burned down?”

“Ain’t I telling you? They moved it over to the pasture on skids two
weeks before the fire.”

“And it is there now?”

“Yes—but don’t!”

Andy felt like making a rush at once at the great hopeful news Silas had
told. The latter had grabbed his arm.

“Don’t what?”

“Bolt. You’re going to make a dash like you did this morning.”

“No, Silas,” said Andy, trying to be calm. “You can’t imagine what great
news you have brought me.”

“I don’t see how.”

“We must go to the Collins farm at once, Silas, that old shed had a
shelf up over the side window?”

“Remember that, do you? So do I.”

“It had a lot of rubbish on it.”

“I noticed that.”

“Has it ever been disturbed?”

“Not that I know of. You see, Mr. Collins was arranging to have the old
barracks patched up by a carpenter from Wade, when the fire came along.”

“Silas,” said Andy, “I threw my old clothes up on that shelf. If they
are still there, I shall be able to find an old leather pocketbook in
them that contains a paper upon which depends a fortune.”

“You don’t say so?” remarked Silas, in open-mouthed wonderment “What
queer things you happen across!”

“A gentleman named Webb is very, very anxious to recover that
pocketbook. I want you to go at once with me and see if the clothes are
still there,” and Andy briefly recited the story of the lost pocketbook
and the details of his recent visit to the Collins farm.

He was consulting a railroad timetable to determine when the next train
left Montrose, when Scipio rushed into the room.

“Andy, boy,” he spoke quickly, “yo’ told a boy to told me dat he was to
be let come to see yo’?”

“What kind of a boy, Scipio?” inquired Andy.

Scipio described Dale Billings, and as he did so passed some personal
comments on his “’spicious” appearance.

“Yes, that’s right, Scipio,” said Andy.

“Den somefin’s wrong,” declared the perturbed cook. “When he come, I say
Mistah Nelson very much preoccupied with another gemman, and he must
wait. He sot down on dat chair just outside the door hyar.”

“Go on, Scipio.”

“I keep my eye on him. Dat boy,” announced Scipio, “remind me of mean,
low-down people, I meet afore in my ’sperience. Bimeby I watch him bend
towards de door. He seemed listening. Den I saw him start and draw
closer to de door. Den all of a sudden he make a rush out of de place. I
run to de gate. Den anoder sneaking-looking boy meet him. Dey talk fast,
berry much excited. Den dey make a run towards the railroad tracks as if
dey was in a turrible hurry.”

“Dale Billings and Gus Talbot!” exclaimed Andy, on fire with the
intelligence imparted by his loyal, dusky friend. “Silas, they have got
our secret. They are after the old leather pocketbook on the Collins
farm. We must get there first!”

Andy directed Silas to wait where he was. Then he ran to the room where
Mr. Parks was engaged with his friends. Appearing at the doorway he
attracted the attention of the aeronaut and beckoned to him.

“What is it, Andy?” inquired Parks, coming outside. “You look excited.”

“I am,” admitted Andy, and then very briefly, but clearly, he explained
his urgency.

“I say, you mustn’t let any grass grow under your feet!” exclaimed
Parks. “I reckon you’ve got it right—that sneaking fellow you was trying
to help is off on the track of the old shed you tell about. There’s the
_Racing Star_—no, that won’t do, but—I’ve got it, Andy. Wait here a
minute.”

John Parks flashed in among his friends and then flashed out again. Now
he was accompanied by a well-dressed portly gentleman whom Andy had seen
about the aviation grounds, and whom he knew to be one of the principals
in getting up the race.

The aeronaut was busy talking fast and urgently to this person, who
nodded to Andy and said:

“That’s all right Do you know how to run an automobile?” to Andy.

“Why, that was his old business,” explained Parks.

“I’ll risk anybody getting ahead of you, then. My machine is just
outside the camp.”

“Come on, Silas,” hailed Andy as they passed on towards the gate.

Andy found a magnificent six-cylinder automobile just outside the camp.
He thanked its owner heartily for allowing its use, beckoned Silas to
the rear seat, and waved adieu to his employer with the cheery words:

“I’ll be back inside of two hours, Mr. Parks.”

“Say,” bolted out Silas, holding on with both hands as they crossed the
railroad tracks and struck a winding country road due north,
“isn’t—isn’t this going pretty fast?”

“Oh, this is just starting up,” declared Andy.

“I never rode in one of these before,” said Silas. “Those sneaks won’t
get much ahead of this, I’m thinking.”

Andy thought this, too. There was not the least doubt in his mind that
Dale Billings and Gus Talbot were already on the trail of the old
leather pocketbook. All they could do, however, was to steal their way
on some slow freight train. Still, they might induce someone to go for
them or with them by faster travel. They might get an automobile, even
if they had to steal one. Andy felt that it was pretty hopeless trying
to make Dale or Gus respectable. He had intended, in the liberality of
his heart, to put them on their feet. Here, the first thing, Dale was
acting the part of a sneak and a thief.

It felt good to Andy to get back to his old business once more. Once out
on a clear, level road, he made the machine fairly hum. Various
ejaculations back of him told that his unexperienced passenger was
having spasms. In considerably less than an hour the machine reached
Wade. They were soon at the site of the Collins farmhouse.

“There’s the old shed, see?” spoke Silas, as Andy directed the machine
across the fields.

“Yes, I see,” said Andy, “and it’s a sight for sore eyes.”

He halted the machine and jumped out as they reached the fence of a
pasture lot containing several flocks of sheep. In one corner of it
stood the old shed. Silas was worked up to quite as high a pitch of
suspense and expectation as Andy himself.

“There’s the shelf!” he cried, as Andy passed through the doorway.

“Yes, but—my old clothes are not here.”

“Oh, don’t say that!” almost choked out Silas.

“It is true,” said Andy, getting down from the keg he was standing on.
“Here’s a lot of old truck, wagon hardware and hoops and a grindstone,
but the clothes are gone.”

Silas uttered a dismal groan.

“Oh, I’m a hoodoo!” he declared, banging his head first on one side and
then on the other. “Here I’ve made you all this trouble, all for
nothing. But, say,” added the farmer eagerly, “some one must have taken
those clothes. We may trace them down. And say, some one has been in
this shed since I left it yesterday.”

“Why do you think so?”

“Someone has slept here. See, the floor is covered with straw. Some
tramp, I suppose. It rained last night, and he came in here for shelter.
Oh, whoop! whoopee!”

At first Andy thought his companion had taken leave of his senses. With
a Comanche-like yell Silas had made a spring. Then a method to his
apparent madness was disclosed.

Andy saw him pull a wadded mass out of a hole formerly used to admit a
stove pipe. Andy gasped with gladness and hope.

“My clothes,” he said, “sure enough!”

“Don’t you see?” said the jubilant Silas, dancing a joyful hornpipe. “It
rained. The tramp who stayed here stuffed up the hole to shut out the
rain. Say, sure your clothes?”

“Yes,” said Andy, searching them.

“And the pocketbook?”

“Here it is,” cried our hero in a strained tone that trembled. “Yes, the
pocketbook is here all right.”

“Hurrah!” yelled Silas Pierce at the top of his voice.



CHAPTER XXV—GOOD-BY TO AIRSHIP ANDY


“A visitor for yo’, Marse Andy,” announced Scipio.

“It’s only me,” said Mr. Chase, stepping into the sitting room of the
aerodrome at the Parks’ camp.

“Well, no one is more welcome, Mr. Chase,” declared Andy heartily. “Come
in, sit down, and make yourself at home.”

“Not till I ask a certain question,” dissented the grizzled
lockup-keeper of Princeville.

“Fire away,” smiled Andy. “What’s the question?”

“Can you get me a job?”

“Right off, and a good one,” responded Andy promptly. “My employer, Mr.
Parks, is going into the airship line as a regular professional, and I
don’t know a better all-round handy man I would recommend sooner than
you.”

“All right,” said Chase, with a sigh of relief, dropping into a chair
and placing a bulging, ancient carpet bag on the floor. “I’m done with
lockups.”

“Is that so, Mr. Chase?”

“It is, and with that conscienceless old grafter, Talbot. You know I
told you I was waiting for something when I last saw you.”

“Yes,” nodded Andy.

“It was Wandering Dick.”

“So you told me.”

“I sent that tramp after him. He found him. I got from Dick what I
wanted, paid for it, resigned my position, and now I am here.”

“Quick work.”

“And here’s what I got from Wandering Dick.”

Chase extended to Andy a neatly folded paper.

“And what is this, Mr. Chase?” asked Andy.

“A confession and affidavit.”

“How does that interest me?”

“Read and see.”

Andy’s face grew interested and then startled as he perused the sheet of
paper. It was a legal document attested to by Wandering Dick before a
regular justice of the peace at Princeville.

In his affidavit the tramp stated that on the night that the barn of
Farmer Jones burned down, he was in its hay mow. He saw distinctly the
two boys who set the fire—Gus Talbot and Dale Billings. He got out of
the way for fear of being charged with the crime, sought later shelter
at the jail, and told Chase about it.

The latter was so dependent upon Talbot and in dread of the garage
keeper, who held his position at his mercy, that he made no move to
right Andy with the public until the latter was arrested.

“You have done nobly, Mr. Chase,” said Andy with deep gratitude, “and
where is your bill of expenses to settle?”

“Settle nothing!” flared out Chase stormily. “You ever mention it again
and I’ll get out of here bag and baggage, double quick.”

“Well, well,” answered Andy, “we’ll try to find some way to make it up
to you.”

Two days later Andy learned that the attention of Seth Talbot had been
called to the affidavit. Runaway Gus Talbot and Dale Billings had
returned to Princeville. In some way the garage keeper settled with
Farmer Jones, hushed up the matter, and sent his graceless son on a sea
voyage. The charge against Andy was, of course, dismissed.

Andy went to visit Duske in the town hospital. His accomplice, Tyrrell,
had been driven out of the aviation camp and threatened with a coat of
tar and feathers if he ever returned. The rest of Duske’s party
disappeared, and creditors seized what little property he had.

Duske would never drive a balloon or airship again. One arm and one foot
were broken, and he had sustained other severe injuries. Andy found him
a dispirited, wretched man.

He had an object in visiting the crippled aeronaut. He began by telling
Duske that deeply as he tried to wrong Parks, the latter had ordered and
paid for the best care during his stay in the hospital.

“I am circulating a subscription paper among the aviators,” added Andy.
“We expect to raise a thousand dollars for you to go to some quiet town
and buy some small business that will give you a living.”

No person could resist the kindliness of Andy under the circumstances.
Duske broke down completely. He was as sincere and penitent as a man of
his rough mould of mind could be.

“I don’t deserve it, I’ve been a bad man,” he declared, with tears in
his eyes. “What can I do for you for all your kindness to me?”

“You can do something, Mr. Duske,” said Andy. “There is a man named
Morse. Do you know him?”

“Why, yes, I do,” replied Duske, with a great start. “Do you?”

“I happen to.”

“What has he got to do with you and me?”

“Just this,” said Andy, “you have treated him badly. He is my friend.
You had a hold on him. What was it?”

“A forgery he never committed.”

“Are you willing to prove that, and clear him?”

“Yes, indeed. I’ve done enough wickedness in the world.”

“Then clear his name of an unjust charge, so he can stand before the
public the good, noble man he is.”

“I will,” declared Duske earnestly, and he did.

One week after the airship race Mr. Webb, to whom Andy had sent the old
leather pocketbook by registered mail the day he recovered it, came down
to the Parks camp.

“I have been too busy to come before,” he explained to Andy. “That
document in the old leather pocketbook took up my time. I tell you,
Nelson, it has brought brightness and comfort to two orphan children in
a grand way.”

“I am very glad,” said Andy.

“I got back the two hundred dollars you left at the bank in
Princeville,” continued Mr. Webb. “I have added something to it, and my
attorneys have directed me to pay you what they intended to give the
finder of the pocketbook—five hundred dollars.”

Andy made some demur at the largeness of the amount, but Mr. Webb was
persistent, declared he was simply acting as agent for the lawyers, and
Andy had to take the money.

“As to myself,” observed the gentleman, “I want to say what you must
already know, Nelson—I am greatly interested in you. I wish you could
suggest some way in which my means can benefit you.”

“So do I,” broke in John Parks. “The lad is a genius in the aviation
line, and I want him to keep on at it.”

“Don’t I intend to?” challenged Andy.

“Not when you say you are going to leave me next month,” declared the
aeronaut.

“Yes, but why?” said Andy. “I’ll leave it to Mr. Webb here if I have not
decided in a sensible, practical way.”

“What is it, Nelson?” inquired Mr. Webb.

“Why, I have over two thousand five hundred dollars in the bank. I want
to put one thousand of it aside for my half brother, when he turns up.
He was good and kind to me in the old days, and I must not forget it.
Then I want to go through college and learn something so I may be of
some use in the world.”

“An excellent idea,” commended Mr. Webb.

“Yes,” growled Parks, but playfully, “and spoil a good aviator!”

“Not at all,” declared Andy quickly. “I love the airship business, Mr.
Parks, but I want to learn every branch of the science that covers it.
It looks as if airships are to be the coming vehicles of travel, you
say, Mr. Parks. If that is so, everybody will be flying in time, and the
professional aviator will be just a common, everyday person.”

“Well, I suppose that’s so,” admitted Parks.

“Then, the wise man will be the one who knows how to build the airship.
Why, I’ll go through college, come out with my head chock full of new
ideas, and Mr. Webb and you and I will get up the World’s Airship
Construction Co.”

“That’s a pretty grand scheme, Nelson,” said Mr. Webb.

“Mayn’t it become a true one?”

“Yes, it may,” said John Parks, “but I’ll always think most of you just
as you are—Airship Andy.”


                                THE END



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